We already know that most businesses, big or small, are directly or indirectly affected by the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Granted, a few industries (travel, tourism, relocation, hospitality, HoReCa, and aviation come to mind) have been hit the hardest.
But this doesn’t mean that we can’t see the effects everywhere.
Sadly, financial analysts say that this is just the beginning. We can expect to see rolling recessions and more and more companies affected by the pandemic.
So, what can you do to stay alive — as an individual and as a company? How can you help?
I dusted off my college courses on communication during crises, added some of my hands-on practical experience plus some of our agencies’ clients’ stories to put together a quick guide.
Grab yourself a cup of tea (or a glass of wine, almost everything is OK now) and let’s take a look at:
You’ll see that these three chapters aren’t completely separated from each other. The way you communicate and help now can help you generate new revenue streams — now or in the future.
Ready? Let’s dig in.
How to Communicate During a Global Crisis?
First things first: whatever you do, no matter if and how your company is affected by the pandemic or another type of crisis, YOU SHOULD NEVER STOP COMMUNICATING.
Sorry for screaming this at you but it’s really important.
Don’t shut down.
Remember that people are online now more than ever. And some of these people are (or can become) your customers.
Let’s take a look at some scenarios.
This means that you are directly affected by the crisis. This is not the time to put on a brave face. Be honest and transparent.
Announce your new schedule through every means at your disposal:
Be brief but explain the reasons why you decided to limit your activity or shut down completely. Most likely, it has something to do with your employees’ and your customers’ safety so say it, don’t assume people will understand from context.
Service companies are the best example here, especially those that are 100% online. They rarely interact with their clients in person, so for them, it’s pretty much business as usual. Still, your clients want to know that you are a responsible company, so announce:
Bottom line: communicate even the smallest change, especially when it’s meant to reassure your current clients. Remember that everyone is panicking so your goal should be to remain an oasis of calmness and to communicate that you are handling the situation as best as possible.
In “normal” times, 37% of customers expect a response from a business in less than an hour. We don’t have any studies (yet!) about customers’ patience during a crisis but, as you can imagine, they’re running low on it.
Here’s what you can do to minimize waiting time:
Key takeaway: I feel like this needs to be said again. Transparency and proactiveness are key during uncertain times. If you have answers, give them before people ask.
So far, so good. But even with all these tactics in place, you still have the chance to blow it all away with one single tweet or improper email.
Here’s what to avoid in your communication model in times of crisis:
How NOT to communicate during a global crisis?
As I’m writing this article, governments across the world are taking measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. We’re talking about almost EVERY government on every continent in an unprecedented show of unity and responsiveness.
Now, you may not agree with your government’s measures or with those taken by other governments. But do remember that, as a business, it is completely irresponsible (and in some cases illegal) to entice people to disobey official rules or even recommendations. So:
If you have a hotel, a bar, a pub, a restaurant — DO NOT tell people it’s safe to travel at a time when everyone recommends against. Stop advertising tours and parties. You will waste your money and lose future clients in the process.
I know you’re worried about your business and staying afloat — we all are.
So let’s talk about staying afloat and even generating new revenue streams.
How to find new revenue stream?
If you have a brick-and-mortar business, like the hotels, bars, pubs mentioned above, you are most likely hit badly by the pandemic. But there are responsible ways to make ends meet:
Now is the time to let creativity shine. You’ve got just two prerequisites: don’t be insensitive and make sure people really need what you’re selling now.
How can you help? (And talk about it)
You don’t have to be an NGO to be part of the solution. Everyone can play a part, no matter how small in helping to end a crisis sooner rather than later.
In my opinion, just playing your part should be enough of an incentive. But if it’s not, think about it this way: everyone loves companies that do more than count their profits. For instance, AirBnB is getting a massive backlash for refusing refunds to people who are too scared to travel. Corporate responsibility is not a novel thing but it’s becoming more and more the norm.
Draw inspiration from your NGOs and regular citizens. Here are some amazing examples that are happening as we speak in various countries all over the world (and that you can implement, too!):
The examples are countless. And if there’s one good thing in a crisis, it’s the show of solidarity from all over the world. We are all in this together, so let’s act like it.
Communicating during crisis — final words
Of course, there are a lot of things to say on the matter. There are thousands of books written on crisis communication and, with every new terrible situation, we discover that there is more to say about it.
But if I were to say one thing, it’s this one: during these uncertain times, talk to your clients as if you were talking to your partner or your parents. Understand that they could be more vulnerable than you and that they need you to protect them in any way you can.
We cannot thrive separately, only together. So, instead of thinking about the dollar you can earn today, think about the $10 you could make tomorrow or next month, when everyone is safe — in part, thanks to you.
This article originally appeared on her blog.
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