Crisis communication is probably flooding your inbox. You are getting massive information about closures, CDC and WHO recommendations, and even some clever memes about toilet paper and baby wipes. In this time of worry about COVID-19, you can also take a proactive approach to your company communications. Even sharing that you are working on a plan, is sharing information. Calm reassurances will help your employees, your brand, and your customers. Here are few tips to have open communication amid a crisis:
Frequency: Communicate early and often. You may not have all the answers, but by communicating early and frequently, you will reassure your employees and customers that you are aware and monitoring the situation to provide consistent and updated information. No one likes to be left in the dark. Are you having employees work from home? Is this an option or a mandate? Whatever your decisions, communicate early and often.
Availability: It is hard for consumers to know what your new availability is during this time if you don’t publicize changes or if you are maintaining the status quo. Customers are used to nearly 24/7 access to brands with social media. Make sure to post information about customer service hours, open business hours, and stay on top of social media responses and questions. Alert your employees on how to communicate with the customers and while stating your policies.
Transparency: Explain to customers and employees about your crisis plan. Maybe you don’t have one yet, but be sure to communicate that you are working on a plan. Also, be aware that you may need to change your plan as government policies are updated as well. Will your delivery times be delayed? Are you out of stock on certain items? Clearly communicate that and also when you will expect to be solving those issues.
Knowledge: Share the knowledge of what you know. You are probably not an expert on health issues and concerns with COVID-19. Resist providing our opinions and anecdotal evidence or placating statements. Just stick with your brand’s area of knowledge and share your brand.
Empathy: Remember everyone will react differently to this crisis. Be patient with your employees and customers and let them lead the conversations. They may need more support time than normal. Reassure your employees that during this time, quality communication is key to supporting your customer base. And do your part to show empathy to your employees.
Crisis plans can be adapted and changed. Having a plan in place will allow your company to respond and act swiftly. Whether the crisis is just your company or state-wide or global, communication is key. The more prepared you are, the better. Take this opportunity to spotlight your values and actually enhance how you are seen by the public. It all starts with communication.