The first step to managing your external communications is ensuring that you have a plan in place. This is true whether times are good or bad, but it’s particularly important when you’re dealing with an unforeseen crisis.
While a few short months ago no one could have predicted the scale and gravity of the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s a smart idea to always have a roadmap for managing any crisis communications that may arise. What is the chain of command for approving content that goes out? Who is the point person for any media inquiries? If you didn’t have a plan established before, now is a good time to craft one.
It’s also important that you not shy away from communicating with your audience at a time like this. While you may be hesitant to reach out, since you know they’re being hit with message after message, this is not the time to stay silent. Your audience wants to feel like you have things under control and are considering their safety and the wellbeing of your team.
It’s also important that you maintain an appropriate tone. Make your readers feel like you have everything in hand at your company, but don’t overreach and start playing medical doctor. Leave that to the experts at the CDC and WHO. If you’d like to be a resource for your customers in that way, simply offer up links to the briefings that are coming out of those official agencies daily.
When it comes to specific tips for handling communications around COVID-19, Pushkin PR makes the case for creating a specific page on your website that’s dedicated to providing your audience with updates. This page should include what your business is doing, provide updates about any closures or changes in service, and include links out to official government sites for more information.
Let’s take a closer look at some organizations who have gotten it right.
Luxury Brands Show Compassion and Empathy
Vogue Business did a deep dive into how luxury brands are managing communications and advertising at this time. They focused on brands’ responses in Asia, where the outbreak began.
They noted that many businesses communicated about their efforts to donate supplies where needed, but cautioned that it’s important to find the right tone, as a move like this can otherwise read as self-serving.
Additionally, it’s important to vet any organizations that you might wish to donate to, as picking an organization with a checkered past can cause a secondary PR issue.
Fine Dining Rolls Up its Sleeves
Here in the US, fine dining establishment Canlis operates in Seattle, one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19. They announced on social media the other day that they were ceasing their fine dining operations for the time being and creating delivery options better designed to serve the present needs of the community.
On their Facebook page they note, “Fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now. Instead, this is one idea for safely creating jobs for our employees, while serving as much of the city as we can.” This is a great example of a business showing they’re keeping both their customers and team in mind during a difficult time.
Video Keeps Us Connected Despite Social Distancing
Video platform Loom also made an altruistic announcement. Because so many businesses and schools are now going remote, they’re removing recording time limits on their free plan and are slashing prices on their pro video recording membership. Not only that, they’ve made recording free for educators and students (and not just for the duration of the pandemic, but forever).
No matter what type of business you’re in, it’s important to keep your communications full of empathy and centered on your customers. These are unnerving times, and when you can produce communications that comfort, you do your customers a service well beyond your typical offerings.
About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC
The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to predictably grow sales. We apply data science to help you optimize your sales funnel, improve your marketing ROI, launch new products successfully, and enter new markets profitably.
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About the Author
Rob Ristagno, founder and CEO of the Sterling Woods Group, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. Starting his career at McKinsey, his focus has always been on embracing digital technology and data science to spur strategic growth.
Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Digiday.
He holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.
Rob lives outside Boston, MA with his wife, Kate; daughter, Leni; and black lab, Royce.