Right now, we are all a little overwhelmed by emails from companies and organizations regarding the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Our inboxes and news feeds are over-saturated with tips and trends and questions without answers. Shift has spent the past week reading, advising, and preparing such messages. We’ve been discussing this experience internally and want to offer our insight to others, because we are in this together.
We’ve put together this three part series to help make sense of marketing and communications when the world is working to flatten the curve and manage an outbreak. This series is for those tired of hearing from brands with no heart, who can’t read the room. It’s for businesses who need to offer stability. And it’s to advocate for those without a voice.
Part one of three:
Concern for health and safety is top of mind
The team at Shift Collaborative will continue to be available to help our clients, now and going forward. We have a plan in place and we have been working from home to take ourselves out of harm’s way for the health of our team, their families, and the community in general. This is part of the overall effort to “flatten the curve” and to protect caregivers and responders by exercising an abundance of caution.
In a more normal state of affairs, businesses work hard to communicate core values to employees and customers. In this state of emergency, those values are being revealed and people are paying attention. Among the best things you can do is to show that your organization values the health and safety of employees and the needs of their families. Show that you are taking precautions to provide hygienic operations. Show that you put thought into the movements and contact of your staff, the customers and vendors who visit your facilities, the homes and offices your staff will visit, and the goods you ship.
Share your plan, we are all in this together
We recognize that messages from brands about the virus and affected services have piled up at this point. On the other hand, sharing your brand’s message is not piling on. Providing information is important for everyone’s safety and sanity. Planning is critical for the people in your circle and your plan informs their planning. Despite the noise, it is necessary to share and help set expectations.
Some businesses have no need to publicize a standard COVID-19 statement. Some will inform stakeholders privately through private communication. Others may take a more passive approach, responding only when information is requested. Whether these are appropriate depend on the relationship between the organization and its customers and stakeholders.
Having a COVID-19 plan and communication strategy has value beyond your image and sales. Even if you are not sending out a statement, internal discussion and a clear communication plan is important. Your staff needs to understand how to confidently answer questions as they arise.
Safety first. If you are a business communicating with your customers, you can show your worth. At a time like this, people will be more sensitive to the values left unsaid in your chosen message. Lead with the information that people need for their safety. It is possible to protect each other without being alarmist.
Allow for change — absolute certainty is not the strongest position
Recognize that your plans necessarily will change. The reality is that none of us know when or how anything will be restored to normal. Make room for uncertainty and try to remain flexible. Do not try to predict or rely too strongly on predictions for how soon normalcy will return. Accepting this uncertainty will make you a more reliable partner in managing the crisis.
Manage resources the best you can and try not to oversell when the stakes are unusually high. It may feel odd, but for now trying your best and acknowledging you cannot have all the answers will work. It helps if you can keep your promises and manage your schedule, like your resources, with an abundance of caution.
Communicate your needs
Asking for help is always allowed, even if it’s not always common in business messaging. In a crisis it is often necessary. Revealing a need also gives your communication some purpose at a time when people are receiving what can appear to be the same message from every contact in every corner of their lives. If you need something from someone, now is not the time to be cryptic, vague, or hope that they understood your implied need. Make it easy to understand that you need help and how assistance can be provided.
On the other hand, you may want to contact people to let them know you are available to help them. This should also be plain.
With that said, let us be clear: If you need help, if you need some free advice to navigate these unique challenges, please ask us. We are ready to help.
Next up: Show Compassion.