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COVID-19 Communications: Are you part of the solution?

For the past couple of weeks, clients and friends have asked for communications advice as COVID-19 has quickly taken control of our collective conscious. These aren’t fully baked sentences or complete thoughts, but short messages of palpable uncertainty and anxiety. Messages that recently read ‘let’s get a call to discuss the possibility for you to support a new project’ have been replaced by one-liner texts and voicemails that say ‘call me ASAP’.

Times are unusual and unnerving, and, for some, downright dire. That said, we need to avoid panic. Now is the time for level-headed decision making. Today and for the foreseeable future, it’s important to understand that things will not be normal. Small business owners, individual professionals and business leaders of all stripes should carefully consider how to best communicate with their customers, employees and the general public.

And while urgency is critical, useful and effective should define communications today more than ever. We’re already seeing some of the best companies lean into an effective communication strategy all over the country and across every industry. But we’re also seeing misdirected, off-brand, cookie cutter commentary, that frankly doesn’t measure up to the current moment.

Consider these pillars to transparently communicate relevant calls to action for your audiences:

Be authentic? Obviously.

Now is a great time to carefully rethink the words and tone used to define your company and its products/services. Acting like this is business as usual and communicating in a way that isn’t couched in our current shared reality, belies the current fear and uncertainty that is gripping many. You should be providing clear, concise information about how this public health emergency is going to affect your business, and importantly, how you plan to best serve your clients, your employees and the public in the meantime.

Thought leadership? Now’s the time.

Many companies have a well-planned content marketing strategy that was intentionally developed to grow brand awareness and generate leads. Since most of us are working from home, take that plan and put it in freezer for now. Instead, think about offering practical solutions to our new shared-challenges and demonstrate that your company is thinking about how to support the long-term success of its clients and employees – and society. Not only does this give you company the best shot in the long-term, it may help many more immediately.

Time to brag? Consider a timeout.

It’s understandable that businesses must go on and things will eventually get better. While promoting company achievements is customary in normal times, good intentions to position great accomplishments may be ignored at best. But worse, communications that appear tone deaf and unhelpful in our current environment could actually create lasting backlash. If possible, set these newsy accolades aside for now.

Trust your gut? It’s usually right.

Instincts are powerful. But be a champion and avoid criticism. Just because you can communicate doesn’t mean you should. Every time you’re about to issue or post new content, ask yourself: Is this content helpful to my audience? Will it help my clients, or my community navigate these unprecedented times? If the answer is no, start over or post nothing at all. Your gut doesn’t lie.

One final thought. Effective communication strategy takes a thoughtful approach and willingness to execute. With the tools and technology at our fingertips today, the barriers to engaging those who matter most have been greatly mitigated.

Make no mistake. We’re all in this together now! Let’s all be part of the solution.