The global outbreak of COVID-19 maybe a once during century occurrence, and therefore the toll it’s taken on national economies is undeniably unique. COVID-19 has had an instant and far-reaching impact on the way the world of work, school, and public service operations. After months of lockdown, restrictions were starting to be relieved, but the coronavirus will continue to have a continuing impact on life beyond our homes going forward. It has become richly clear that remote working, social distancing, and a rethink of how offices and public spaces are being used and run will redefine what is “normal” for a long time to come.
The question is, what should the new communication style pivot towards—and how are you able to evaluate its effectiveness?
Consider a “stay the course” approach
There is the view to the thought that everything must change due to the pandemic. Don’t forget that maybe the best thing would be to stay the course and keep doing exactly what you’ve always done, with a few warnings that we’ll get to in a moment.
The coronavirus uproar has affected most of the earth’s population to some extent, but there are a few that haven’t been touched by the level of fear that most others have felt. And what do people crave during times of fear? They look to hang onto what they already familiar with.
If you’ve spent considerable time and energy creating real relationships through established marketing strategies, pivoting to a replacement messaging strategy at the instant your readers want to stick with comfortable normalcy could be the worst idea you’ll have. The last thing customers and clients need to see are the organizations and brands they’ve grown to trust suddenly become an unknown quantity.
Don’t think about doing anything too different. Just stay in touch, while minding these suggestions:
- Keep your messaging schedule consistent. If you’ve always sent out weekly communication, persist with it.
- This is not the time for humor. You need to take care that it can’t be interpreted as making light of a disease that has killed over 300,000 worldwide so far. It probably won’t end well.
- It’s also not the time to be a Salesperson either. Try to be sincere, compassionate, interesting, and uplifting. This will assist you to create trust together with your customers.
If “business as usual” isn’t appropriate
There are many organizations that probably shouldn’t continue a business-as-usual approach even given the constraints we just discussed. Maybe their typical communication style is hip, flip, or just too edgy to pass enlist these times. What do you do then?
- Transparency: There’s no sense in pretending it’s business as was common when everyone knows it isn’t. Acknowledge that we’re living in an “interesting” and challenging time of history. Let your messages, communicate the truth of how Covid-19 has impacted your business and therefore the steps you’re taking to affect the challenges in order that your business survives.
- Targeted feel-good stories: As we’ve mentioned, adversity makes people want to read uplifting stories of humans triumphing over adverse conditions. Life within the age of Covid-19 is not any different, but keep these stories focused on virus-related feel-good content. That poignant story of the fireman saving the cat from a tree won’t have nearly the maximum amount of impact because the same fireman delivering the cat to the homebound individual who hasn’t been outside for a month for fear of contracting the disease. That’s what good targeting does. It’s an equivalent story, just with a more precise angle.
When returning to normal communications
At what point is it okay to release that long-held breath and return to something resembling normal message content and processes? Okay, that’s sort of a trick question. The concept of normal is always changing.
Treat today as normal for today. Tomorrow it might be something different. There likely will come a time once you can begin to build up communications to a better level, but which will be within the context of a society that has changed permanently.
If nothing else, the coronavirus pandemic has probably delivered to light for several businesses the truth that they didn’t spend enough time planning for crisis communications both internally and externally. If your organization falls into this category, now you have something new to think about.
While it’s almost certain that you can’t foresee every bump in the road ahead, it’s good practice to throw hypotheticals out to the team and see how they respond. Create a scenario and, wagon-style, make it as realistic as you can.
Create a politician crisis communication strategy document and increase it as you go. What kind of content play to a particular crowd? Pandemic planning should probably get a chapter of its own now, but you’ll bet there’s something else unexpected lying in wait just round the bend.