Like a sucker punch out of nowhere, the effects of COVID-19 have knocked business of all sizes to their knees. Years – decades – of pain, progress and promise gone in just weeks.
Down – but not out – businesses, organizations and government agencies are now preparing to re-open under a new normal.
While there are many unknowns, one thing is clear – business as usual is not an option. The rise of teleworking, increased digital engagement, enhanced flexibility, changes to supply chains – companies and organizations have embraced all of these factors to survive a pandemic.
Just as your company or organization will operate differently, have you thought about how you will communicate going forward with your employees, customers and other key stakeholders? Businesses have had a lot to think about lately, from health and safety issues to revenue streams, altered markets and new policies and procedures.
Many of those questions rely on communicating effectively. Here are some tips to help get your business ready to go again:
- Communicate what you are doing to protect health and safety. While opinion polls show that many people want businesses to re-open, people are also concerned about whether it’s safe to return. Be sure to communicate your plan. How are you addressing social distancing? Protective equipment? The availability of sanitizer? Cleaning? Work flow? Communicate your plan so your customers will be confident enough to return and that your employees – really, your most important audience – feel comfortable about going to work and representing your brand.
- Embrace digital to reflect changed customer expectations. Organizations that were previously reticent to use video chats, online team meetings or mobile-app delivery have embraced technology to continue doing business. Companies should continue to rethink customer journeys and expand the use of digital solutions. Whether that means doing more online to limit person-to-person contact or using new tools to communicate to customers, there should no longer be any hesitation to jump head-strong into the digital world.
- Retool your messages. What you say to your customers, employees and other stakeholders always matters, perhaps even more so in a post-pandemic world. In addition to communicating what you are doing to keep them safe, think about what else your stakeholders need to know. For example, how is your business changing? Are you offering any new products or services? Are plans being altered? How are you helping the community? Create a list of the top three key messages you want people to know about. Why three? It’s easy for people to remember three items. Once you have your top three, communicate those messages clearly, consistently and accurately.
- Re-assess your communication channels. You must reach customers where they are. During the pandemic many businesses had to rely on, for example, Zoom meetings to teach yoga, and they expanded or refined their communications toolbox. If your business was heavy in meetings and events, how will you use remote technology? If social media was successful for you before, what other social channels should you add? Is now the time to advertise or not? What needs to be added to your website? As you ponder these and other questions, keep your key audiences in mind. What media are they consuming? How do you want to engage with them? This will help you determine the ideal media mix to share your messages.
- Develop – or refine – your crisis communications plan. If any event in recent memory taught us about the importance of having a crisis communications plan, this was it. A crisis plan, in short, is a document to help you identify and react to any event, situation, issue or change that can harm your business, lead to lost revenue, damage your reputation, or impair your business continuity. It provides protocols and options to communicate effectively and efficiently during an incident, ensures a coordinated response, and enables companies to move from reaction to response more quickly at a time when resources have been or may be overwhelmed. If you have a plan, consider the impacts of a global pandemic, if you haven’t already. If you don’t have a crisis plan, think about all that can go wrong in your business – from fire to natural disasters, workplace violence and more. You’ll then have the genesis of how to communicate and be your best on a bad day.
Need help communicating in a post-pandemic world? Contact Thomas at [email protected].