The Dos and Don’ts of Communication During COVID-19

Shana Harris, COO

During this time, communication is more important than ever to help you weather this storm successfully. It is critical to reassure your clients and customers on what you are doing to ensure a safe environment, what is changing, how you are responding, and what impact, if any, there will be on them. You should set up clear expectations on when you will communicate next so they know what to expect.

When to communicate and how often?

When and how often you will need to communicate varies on the industry you are in and how your business is affected.  In any situation, keeping people in the know and updated is important.  This helps to minimize fear, lets them know that they are important and helps them understand what is happening now.  When there is silence, there is uncertainty.  People start to panic or make assumptions when they don’t get the information from the source and start listening to others, often non-credible sources.  This often leads to false rumors being spread, which can be hard to control and defend.

Where to communicate?

The platforms you choose to use for communicating key messages depend on who your target audience is and what platforms they use frequently.  It is important to identify these platforms as early on as possible to ensure you create your messages appropriately.  For example, a video message on social media may be a good fit for some audiences, where texting and voice mail may be best for another audience.  Know your audiences and be prepared to deliver your message in different formats and across multiple mediums.

What to communicate?

Being honest and transparent is always the best policy.  Tell people as much as you can without causing unnecessary fear.  If the news is negative, such as a layoff, be empathetic and tell them what you are doing, what the plan is, and reinforce that you will continue to update them.  Provide a schedule and give them a timeline for when updates will happen.  By setting up a timeframe, you are building confidence and helping to give them something to rely on in an uncertain time.

Avoid being too general or giving them fluff.  They will see right through it and not trust you.  This often can cause people to be mad or angry at you, which is something you want to avoid happening.  Making promises you may not be able to keep or trying to project the future, are things you want to stay away from, especially with this situation.  Take it day-by-day and continue to provide meaningful updates, and you will come out in a positive light.

TLDR? This is what you need to know about communicating during COVID-19

  1. Communicate often – Set up a timeline and clear expectations.
  2. Be transparent and honest – Don’t sugar coat things, but share the information and communicate what you are going to do as a next step.
  3. Be emotive and empathetic – It’s ok to get emotional and let people see that you care and that this is a hard time for you too, but be strong and show your employees and customers that you are a leader and will work with them to get through this.
  4. Communication Platforms – Identify platforms based on your target audience and be prepared to deliver your message in different formats across these platforms.
  5. This is temporary – As scary and as uncertain these times are, let them know that this too shall pass and that you are in it with them and will guide them through this storm.