In a sea of coronavirus-related articles and messages, it’s critical that companies ensure their words and actions not only match each other, but also are genuine, honest and empathetic. Whether communicating with employees or customers, this is not the time for jargon-laced, ambiguous messaging. The biggest things companies can do right now when it comes to communication are to listen and to speak with a brand voice that is human and transparent.
Communicating in the age of coronavirus: How to be personal and foster connectivity while working remotely
Be open and honest. Let your employees know what’s happening as events unfold. Don’t leave out details you think your employees can’t handle. Transparency builds credibility. Be forthright. Let them know if the company screwed up in any way. Tell them what should have been done and what will be done to handle situations. Tactics can include:
Be visible. Make your top execs available and visible. Think about a thoughtful and sincere CEO blog or video addressing the situation with employees.
Arm managers with tools. This includes talking points to inform and discuss what’s going on, explain how the company is handling it, reinforce the company’s policies and procedures and where to get additional information.
Give employees tools. Create talking points for frontline employees who speak with customers in person or on the phone. How should they handle customer questions or complaints? Keep the message consistent and clear companywide.
It’s OK to say, “I don’t know.” In dealing with many unknowns, it’s OK to let stakeholders know if you don’t have an answer. Making up information will lead to trouble and can damage the company’s reputation. Let your audiences know you will get back to them when you have more information. But keep in mind that now more than ever, people need to feel that someone is listening. Ensure you don’t dismiss questions or provide incomplete information.
Keep it real. Robotic, duplicative responses devoid of any human element will lead to frustrating your stakeholders. Treat them with respect. Be human. Seek out key people from various stakeholder groups who you can “beta test” your communications with and gather their feedback and make any necessary adjustments.
Don’t be salesy. Scrolling through LinkedIn is often like visiting an old market bazaar where everyone is shouting to buy their wares through a cacophony of webinars, talking heads and posts implying their work phones are still ringing off the hook, despite everything. Cutting through all that noisy clutter takes a human voice and touch. Salesy messaging will turn people off. Messages have to truly speak to your key audiences while embracing the core values your company prides itself on.
Keith and Loren Yaskin run The Flip Side Communications LLC, a Scottsdale media company that helps companies tell their stories through video production, public relations, media training and employee communications.