By Chris Wagner, Commtractor, Director and Partner at Talkforce, Media and Communications Strategists, with over 20 years’ experience in the sector, including crisis communications, media and PR.
COVID-19 presents a rapidly changing situation that requires businesses and organisations to quickly adapt their communication approach. However, change is uncomfortable at the best of times and so how can we communicate significant changes like ‘working from home’ arrangements without causing alarm and discomfort? I have six simple principles to remember when preparing your crisis communications (delivered with a little bit of tongue-in-cheek alliteration).
A calm approach is the vital first step when preparing communications about a crisis. Starting out calm, and staying calm, throughout the crisis can instil a strong sense of ‘we’ve got this’ in your staff and clients.
A crisis is not a time for ambiguity, nor is it a time for clever communications that can interpreted in different ways. Keep your messages clear and easy to understand. Test it on someone before you send it. During a crisis, you need to be understood the first time, every time
Don’t flip flop around with your messaging. Don’t contradict yourself and change your communication approach in the middle of the crisis. That’s why knowing clearly what you can and can’t say, before you say it, is so important
Too many words can turn people off, especially if they are worried. People want quick facts and they want to know what the impact is on them. A good rule is to focus your communications at a teenage audience. Simple language provided in short formats.
The best way to think about this, is to put yourself into the shoes of your audience. Remember, the audience is the hero of your story, not your brand or product. You are the guide to their heroic journey. So, write what you think they want or need to hear, not necessarily what you want to tell them.
When people don’t have an answer for something, they will seek it from a whole range of unhelpful sources, think google doctor, or fake news. The key to helping people feel informed and in control is to ensure they have a constant source of up-to-date information. Choose a time to communicate and build a routine.
Did I mention calm?
How you present your communications during a crisis can help you maintain your reputation, keep your people happy and streamline getting ‘back to business’ when the crisis is finally over.
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