Communicating During a Crisis
The coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the global economy. According to Fortune, the U.S. Department of Labor has tracked 26.5 million jobless claims between March 15 and April 18. At this crossroads, one thing is certain: the right communication strategy is needed. Many companies have been forced to lay off and furlough a large majority of their workforce, communicate pay cuts or make drastic changes to the way they do business. But the need for communication goes beyond discussions with employees. Companies must also consider customers and corporate partners.
This blog takes a closer look at best practices for addressing each of the aforementioned audiences so organizations can successfully navigate the delicate high wire of crisis communications.
Talking to Employees
Human capital is the heartbeat of every organization. When an unexpected crisis such as coronavirus occurs, leaders must directly address their employees. It’s important to remember that this is not a “one and done” approach. Since March, many organizations have distributed company-wide emails about budget cuts and furloughs, and unfortunately, many will have to send additional emails regarding temporary and permanent leaves of absence or business updates. Sensitive subjects require a careful approach, so it’s crucial to frequently and consistently communicate with your workforce using humanized and considerate messaging.
Some companies, like stationary brand Minted, are using the online self-publishing platforms such as Medium to easily and widely share key updates. But more importantly, Minted first communicated news internally before making its announcement public. It did so through both a company-wide video conference call along with one-on-one meetings with those affected by layoffs.
Communicating with Customers
The pandemic has changed the way that businesses interact with customers. With many brick-and-mortar locations closed, businesses must rely on their email databases to inform customers of closures, promotions, procedures for keeping employees and customers safe and plans for reopening.
For organizations with media budgets, the messaging in radio and television advertisements has shifted to include language such as “unprecedented times,” “support” and “safety” to illustrate new priorities, changes to business processes and the measures companies are taking to protect their employees and patrons.
In its Medium post, Minted addressed how it is supporting its employees through severance and health insurance. Being forthcoming and open about struggles can help customers connect with the company on a deeper level. Meanwhile, local restaurants, which are among the hardest hit, are keeping diners updated on hours, safety precautions and special offerings through frequent e-newsletters and social media.
Even B2B organizations have to adjust their communication strategies as coronavirus continues to impact their operations and their customers’ businesses. The focus should shift from selling to offering help and advice. Providing customers with useful information will help position your organization as a thought leader in the short-term and long-term. Even if you followed this approach before the pandemic, now is the time to double down. While total transactions and average order value may be decreasing, you can increase customer loyalty by prioritizing their needs over hard selling.
Keeping Partners Updated
Your partners may include non-profit organizations and charities that your business supports, or external marketing, public relations and advertising agencies. Whether you plan to continue these relationships or put them on hold during a time of crisis, it’s crucial that you communicate your intentions. If possible, consider having these conversations over the phone or via video conference, especially if you need to cut costs and cancel contracts. Your partners will appreciate that you took the time to personalize the message rather than sending an email. Additionally, communicate plans for the future of the relationship so your partners understand what to expect as the economy begins to recover.
Keep Calm and Communicate
The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a defining moment for organizations as they work to navigate this crisis with transparency. Leaders who prioritize clear and thoughtful communication to their employees, customers and partners will be more likely to make a positive impression. Audiences will appreciate and remember open communication. However, once the pandemic passes, it will be important for these organizations to maintain their track record of transparency through regular and insightful communication.
Jess Messenger is an Account Director in Mulberry’s Chicago office and enjoys developing PR campaign strategies and writing for B2B audiences across numerous verticals such as retail, foodservice and healthcare.