For companies big and small, communication is an essential part of everyday business. There are internal emails, external marketing campaigns, newsletters, social media posts — the list goes on. Every element works together to provide cohesive messaging that adds value for stakeholders and underlines a company’s brand and values.
But while the importance of communication remains the same, what, exactly, that looks like is constantly evolving. That’s never more true than in times of crisis. As we’ve helped clients navigate COVID-19 and the uncertainties it’s caused their employees and customers alike, we’ve found that there are several keys to meaningful communication.
- Communicate to all stakeholders. The current pandemic has affected everyone, whether they or their loved ones have dealt with illness, lost a job or struggled with the strain the past seven months have caused. That’s why it’s essential to ensure your messaging is reaching every group that’s invested in your company, from employees to customers to shareholders.
- Communicate frequently across all channels. During times of crisis, frequent communication is critical in order to ensure people are receiving the information they need. Find a cadence that works for your company, and regularly communicate important news, updates and other changes. When doing this, it’s important to take advantage of all channels available to you, from social media platforms to email campaigns. As you get into the rhythm of more frequent communication, don’t forget to update any outdated information that’s still visible to customers, such as COVID-19 practices or guidelines on your website homepage.
- Be conscious of your tone and voice. Using your company voice consistently across all platforms is crucial to creating cohesive communications. But it’s also important to make sure your tone is appropriate for the seriousness of the current situation. If your brand typically adopts a snarkier or more jokey tone, dial that back and focus on a tone that’s reassuring to stakeholders.
- Focus on transparency and authenticity. Authentic communication has always hinged on transparency, but that honesty is more important now than ever. Being open and upfront when communicating can help build trust and establish a bond between your company and its stakeholders. Consulting group McKinsey has identified four traits that are crucial for leadership in times of crisis: awareness, vulnerability, empathy and compassion. Amplifying these characteristics can help create the authentic communication you’re striving for. By showing awareness for current struggles, being vulnerable in how you’re relaying a message and demonstrating empathy and compassion, communication will come across as genuine and impactful.
- Be proactive. Times may be unpredictable, but as much as possible, be proactive rather than reactive. Don’t wait to make announcements or statements. Instead, try to anticipate the needs of stakeholders and craft messaging based around that. If questions regarding the crisis come up often through customer service channels or in social media comments, add an answer or make regular updates to your website FAQ section to educate, inform and update your audiences.
- Be ready to pivot. What’s worked in the past may not work now — and that’s OK. Don’t feel tied down to communication strategies you’ve always relied on. Instead, be creative, agile and open to change. Don’t schedule social media posts too far into the future, as they should stay relevant with what’s happening in current events and be sensitive to new developments. If something isn’t working, pivoting to a new method can be a great way to reach customers. It’s also important to ask customers what they need from you and respond accordingly.
There’s no hard and fast guidebook to follow when communicating in situations like our current pandemic and environment. In the end, being honest and open with everyone from customers to employees and business partners is the best course of action. By doing your best to communicate frequently, with transparency and compassion, you can offer your organization’s stakeholders a sense of community, support and connectedness.