Clarity and transparency can chart a smoother course for your business.
We are moving past lockdowns into a less restricted future, but nothing around us is back to normal yet. Your communication with your customers and employees remains as crucial to your brand’s success as it was when most of us were stuck at home.
It is not yet the time to act like it’s “business as usual.” But it is the time to demonstrate your support and compassion through effective communication, or risk losing the people who enabled your business’ growth.
For business leaders, their response to the challenges of COVID-19 impacted public opinion of their brand and directly affected customer loyalty and the bottom line. It’s important to your brand’s continued success that you take what may have been ineffective and inconsiderate messaging of the recent past as a lesson in being mindful of—and practicing—the fundamental principles of great communication. When anxiety among customers and employees is at an all-time high, customer service and clear, timely communication are essential in maintaining calm. You must intentionally build your crisis messaging. Frantic, retroactive communication erodes the trust your employees and customers have in your leadership.
Here are six key elements to ensure you’re communicating effectively during a crisis:
1. Remain Aligned With Your Mission
In times of crisis, your company mission and core values should inform how and what you communicate to your customers and employees. These are the moments when you lean on your values to determine your actions. This is not the time to market and promote. Presenting your brand as opportunistic should be avoided at all costs. Prioritize what your customers and employees need instead of your own bottom line—and watch the latter grow.
2. Watch Your Tone
While the tone of your communications should align with your brand and voice, it must be contextually appropriate. In times of crisis, it’s important to take on a compassionate tone. If your brand’s voice is too casual, the perception of you will be that you don’t care. Be optimistic, thoughtful, and constructive. Use your communications, whether by email or through social media, to address customer concerns and assure them you appreciate their support at all times.
3. Be Clear and Thorough
In times of uncertainty, people are bombarded with mixed messages and unclear guidance, as too many people focus on covering for themselves. Poor communication from leaders only highlights the fact that they don’t understand the situation. It’s important to speak factually, clearly, and concisely. Prioritizing clarity on your email’s subject line and being thorough in the body of the email is key. Focus on the message you want to convey and eliminate anything that doesn’t add value. Once you are aware of what your customers want to know, address their concerns clearly and leave your bottom line out of the conversation.
4. Prioritize Transparency
Be transparent on the practices you’ve put in place to keep customers and employees safe. Let your customers know, through your website and your email newsletter, that we are all in this together. With more transparency from you comes increased loyalty from your employees and customers.
5. Plan Timely Updates
Providing timely updates is a responsibility you must take extremely seriously, or risk losing trust you cannot get back. During a time of crisis, when you communicate is as important as what you communicate.
- Update your website regularly: It’s critical to provide your customers with a comprehensive source of information that addresses frequently asked questions (FAQ), and it should be updated as situations evolve.
- Stay active on social media: While updating your website or sending emails each day may not be realistic for some business owners, using social media is low effort and high impact.
- Be selective with the information you circulate: Make sure that the information you share is credible and trustworthy, otherwise you risk quickly losing trust from your customers and employees.
- Keep it relevant for consumers: Answer questions that are relevant to your customers and cut out everything else. Their concerns matter most in a time of crisis.
- Maintain your brand: Be helpful, constructive, and courteous in your communications; the way you respond to comments and direct messages reflects how you treat and value customers.
6. Stay on Top of Your Marketing Messaging and Promotions
Carefully audit all current and upcoming promotions, social media posts, public relations outreach, advertisements, blog posts, and digital content to ensure messaging reflects the current situation. The worst thing for your brand in a time of crisis is tone-deaf advertising or content, which gives the impression that you either do not care or are too lazy to turn off the automated messaging. Neither is what you want.
Mindfulness and intention are key to effective communication, which is essential to your brand’s continued success. Though these six fundamentals will take time and energy to appropriately prioritize, those are sacrifices you are required to make to ensure loyalty from your customers and employees into the future. After all, there’s no second way for your business to make a first impression.
Flor A. Estevez, is CEO and Founder of Red Echo Communications which provides integrated communications, branding public relations and strategic event consulting for individuals, businesses, nonprofits and the public sector.