The recent coronavirus outbreak has forced businesses and organisations across the world to make unexpected changes to how they communicate and operate.
Because of this crisis, we all face a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to how our organisations will face this economic hardship, social distancing, closures and sickness that are almost certain to arise.
For these reasons, it has never been more important to effectively manage your communications strategy to ensure you can reassure your staff, customers and investors and keep your business moving forward during these difficult times.
Here are five top tips to help start managing your communications strategy.
Step 1: Create an emergency team to manage your communications strategy
Independent communication consultants Pagefield say, “As the Government itself is finding, communications is – and always will be – one of the most important things to get right during these difficult times.’
Right now, it is vital that the public are continually updated when it comes to COVID-19, so your business needs to stay on top of things. To effectively monitor a fast-moving situation such as the coronavirus outbreak, it’s a good idea to create a dedicated team who can handle it.
They can monitor the situation, communicate with management to develop strategies to handle these changes and explain the changes to staff and customers alike. Should your organisation face any issues relating to the outbreak, this team will be able to develop solutions.
Many communications experts are offering additional resources at this difficult time that can help you put this team together, take much of the stress off your shoulders, and will work alongside you as required.
2. Create detailed communication plans
Before you make any coronavirus-related announcements or communicate in detail with your clients, customers, suppliers, vendors or investors, it’s imperative that you put together a detailed plan.
This will enable you to become more strategic in your communications, better convey how you are handling the crisis and any changes and become more cohesive when it comes to communication across your brand.
Don’t forget that communication is also important for staff, as they too face these uncertain times.
As the UK Local Government Association says, “As situations change and develop it is important that employees are kept informed of the latest information. A lack of information during times of crisis can be particularly unnerving for staff who may fill in the communication gap with their own speculation and rumour.”
Once you’ve gathered your team, you should assess and evaluate the possible developments and outcomes of the crisis and how that might have an impact upon your staff, shareholders and customers. Take your time to work through this part in detail, brainstorming all the possibilities.
Then develop statements, responses and strategies that will help you communicate how you’re dealing with any developments. These should be empathetic, fact-based and proactive and should continue to communicate your brand philosophy.
Step 3: Choose the right communication channels
You’ve gathered your crisis team and you’ve developed your strategy. Next, you need to select the right communication channels through which to share your message.
This will depend on who you are addressing; stakeholders would undoubtedly prefer to be informed directly via email communication, letters or even phone calls. Customers may prefer to receive social media updates and short newsletter updates. For staff, internal wikis, emails and in-person communication usually work best.
In addition to communicating your message via these channels, your team should also be responsive to any questions or queries arising from these groups and provide them with reassurance and positive feedback wherever possible.
Step 4: Communicate with your team and customers
After building your crisis communication fundamentals, you can start communicating with all the groups your organisation comes into contact with. Here are some tips for managing your communications strategy:
- Post the information across all the channels you identified in the previous step
- Communicating updates every day if possible
- Keep your communications as brief as possible
- Avoid using jargon or complicated language
- Aim to provide as much reassurance
- Be aware of any questions, queries or misunderstandings
Step 5: Create a plan B
When global crises such as COVID-19 occur, the world economy often struggles, markets become more volatile and customer behaviour can take unexpected directions. That’s why it’s important to consider a plan B for your communication, marketing and operations strategies.
Ask yourself questions such as;
- Is our organisation’s revenue likely to be affected by current social distancing measures?
- Can I continue to deliver my products or services to customers as before?
- Have any additional problems or needs arisen in the industry? Can we fill them?
- Do we need to cancel, remove or change any of our marketing strategies?
- Is our supply chain still intact?
- Do we need to reallocate budget to these areas?
Once you’ve decided on these changes, it’s important to communicate them to your clients, customers and stakeholders as before and continue to move forward with your business.
Despite the challenges that coronavirus, self-isolation and lockdown bring, we can still find ways for our businesses to thrive instead of merely survive in these difficult times. You will undoubtedly need to make changes when it comes to managing your communications strategy, and even change factors such as the rise of remote working, structuring and budget, but you will get through this.