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Communications in the Time of Corona

April 2, 2020

off to the sunNews that both MSNBC and CNN are no longer airing the full White House briefings on the COVID-19 pandemic is gobsmacking – given the alarming escalation of the virus in the USA right now.

One of the MSNBC hosts made a telling observation:

“we know these briefings have a tendency to veer in a lot of directions. Not all of them are informative or relevant in the midst of this crisis.”

At times of crisis, people are looking for clear, concise and factual information and advice – and also an expression of empathy for the emotional distress and anxiety we are all going through.

While I can’t speak for the veracity of the information, the clear, concise and empathetic way this executive responds to the situation regarding the Ruby Princess is a good example on how to communicate in a crisis.

Here are some quick pieces of communications advice for organisations right now:

  • Make sure that you are communicating regularly with your customer base and with your partners. They will want to know what you are doing to respond to the pandemic, and how any changes you are making will affect them. They will also want to know if they can continue to receive products and services from you during this time, and maybe other ways in which you can help them deal with the crisis.
  • Don’t be afraid to promote your products or services, as long as they are relevant during this time. Organisations and individuals are looking for ways to help them get through this crisis – whether that’s IT solutions to set up remote networks or support their employees working from home, personal protective equipment, supermarket opening hours or home grocery delivery services.
  • If you are providing advice or sharing information, limit this to areas in which you are a subject matter expert. Stick to known facts. At times like this, don’t waste people’s time with your personal theories or irrelevant information. They will already be looking to their own trusted sources of information and experts for this advice.
  • Get to the point quickly. People are dealing with an overload of information with regards to COVID-19, but they do want to hear from you if it is going to have a material impact on them. If you aren’t succinct or providing them with important information quickly, people will switch off and that’s the worst thing that could happen. You want to set the expectation that when they hear from you, your message is relevant and useful.
  • Don’t forget this is personal. While keeping things simple and to the point, be aware that this pandemic is affecting everyone and express that in your communications. Be empathetic throughout, and acknowledge the difficulties and distress we are all going through at the moment.

I hope everyone stays safe and healthy through this pandemic, and gets the information, makes the services and connections they need to keep on top of everything that is going on right now.

Pictured above: off to the sun, by Predi, shared under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) licence.


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