Communicating Through Crisis

“In every crisis, doubt or confusion, take the higher path.” — Amit Ray, Nonviolence: The Transforming Power

Well these are strange days, aren’t they? I don’t recall a period of time when the mass public has had to deal with this amount of uncertainty. Ranging from degrees of hope to shades of fear, we’re all a little concerned. One client of ours has shuttered their doors while another is prospering. But both clients have been run ragged trying to maintain some amount of normalcy and taking care of themselves and their employees. And both have also sought our help figuring out the right messaging. During the mayhem, they still need to communicate with their customers, suppliers and staff. For our own sake, The Write Cheese sat down and brainstormed a quick five-factor checklist we are using to communicate effectively during this crisis. Everything we’re writing these days goes through this evaluation. We thought we were compiling this list specifically for COVID-19 but it speaks to everything we try to communicate. We won’t be putting it on the shelf when this is all over.

Have a Response

Whether you’re shutting your doors or staying open for business, let your customers know where you stand. Uncertainty spreads like wildfire in a crisis situation, so even if you’re doing something as simple as making meals let the world know so they have one less thing to think about.
And absolutely convey the message that you won’t be updating your status unless something changes. Doing that helps your clients know that days after your initial response, it’s still your valid position.

Be Honest

Any crisis is new territory for most, that’s part of what makes it a crisis. If your organization doesn’t immediately know how to respond that’s okay. Tell your audience the facts and that your team is preparing a response that is suitable for all stakeholders. Even though you might still be defining your approach, sticking to factual elements helps the audience believe that you have things under control. Consider it buying yourself some time in order to construct the best plan your organization can put forward. Being honest quells their fears, for a bit of time anyway.

Be hopeful, not fearful

Even if you’re hiding in a bathroom stall chewing your fingernails to nubs, your messaging should be focused on the best possible outcomes. It might be a terrifying time for everyone between now and then, but you can always find a light at the end of the tunnel. Remember, you’re trying to build support. The best way to do that is to remind your public that one day, the crisis will end.

Spread truth, not misinformation

If the world is in the midst of a medical crisis and that isn’t your expertise, don’t choose this point to start giving advice. The evidence around COVID-19 is changing on a daily basis. If you feel the need to help your audience with suggestions simply point them to reliable sources they can regularly check.
But really, you should be sticking to what you know best, and that is your business and your product.

Focus on the positive

A counselling office we know had sent out a message with the headline indicating that the office was closed during COVID-19. The remainder of the notice mentioned that they were offering online sessions instead of face-to-face meetings. Unfortunately, that important piece of information became shadowed by the announcement that the office was locked. Switch that around to lead with a positive message and the response will be that much different.

And one bonus point…

You Will Have a Future!

COVID-19 isn’t an event, it’s a process. Sitting in your empty office, it might be hard to believe this. Whether the world learns to live with the virus forever or someone finds a cure, you have a purpose. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have been in business in the first place. Think about your ongoing strategy throughout this experience and after. How is your organization going to change in response? How is this going to impact your mission and vision? You have the time now to sit down and give this some serious consideration. Who is the world going to see in your business when the dust settles?

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