How to Communicate Effectively During a Crisis

As the coronavirus crisis continues, the one certainty is that the situation changes daily. Your or organization may be grappling with the ongoing challenge of working with remote teams, servicing customers in new ways, and possibly even survival.  This is a time for businesses and organizations to level-up day-to-day communication with all stakeholders.

It is vital to provide clear, factual, and useful communication. If you are a business owner or leader, you must continue to communicate with your customers, employees, vendors, board members, investors, and others. Do you have a plan in place? Are you making adjustments based on these new conditions?

The messaging you were using a month, or even a week ago simply may not work today. You may need to update your messaging daily or weekly. You may have to change how you do business. Flexibility and honesty are your best tools.

Here are 6 tips to effective communication during a crisis:

Have situation awareness. Be aware of what’s happening in your community and keep up with the daily changes to health advisories and guidance from local officials. Be prepared for any scenario and create messaging for each outcome so you can instantly communicate with your stakeholders as your situation changes. Remain honest, factual, and calm, and check-in with your stakeholders regularly via phone.

Listen to your employees. They are anxious about their livelihoods. Prepare appropriate and clear messaging. Set up regular briefings via Zoom or send a daily email. Establish a regular schedule so your employees can hear from you firsthand how the company is operating. Allow them to ask questions and share their feelings. Remain honest, factual, and calm.

Don’t be tone-deaf. Make sure the tone of your message is appropriate. Now is not the time to push sales in every social media post. When talking about the coronavirus, stick to the facts, and be serious. It’s okay to offer some content that is lighthearted and encouraging but doesn’t forget people are getting sick and dying while others are deeply concerned about their future.

Provide information regularly. Keep stakeholders updated on developments that affect your company’s operations. Make sure your employees are prepared for all eventualities. Let your customers know you’re still in business, and if your products and services may be delayed. Setting expectations and avoiding surprises as much as possible will get you through the long haul and set you up to recover after the pandemic passes.

Offer resources. It is easy to hit information overload. And a lot of misinformation is circulating right now. You can help your stakeholders by providing them with accurate and timely information that comes from credible sources. Provide links to organization websites (local elected officials and health departments, the CDC, local news outlets, etc.) that will help them understand the virus, what’s happening in the community, how to manage stress, and more.

Be creative. Maybe your company can help the community. Do you have food to donate? Can you help with an existing initiative? How about other services? Lend your expertise to others. This is a good time to spread the word about your business in a positive manner, especially if you offer something to help people get through the next weeks or months.

Your leadership skills will be tested daily. Will you rise to the occasion? Using messaging that informs and is helpful will put you ahead of your competitors. How can you best serve your customers during this time? Understanding how to reach them and what message resonates with them will be key. Make adjustments as needed. Be responsible. 

Most importantly, be kind. We are all in this together and we will get through it.