It’s all shifted a bit now hasn’t it? It’s no longer about getting through it and “when this is all over” because it won’t be over for a while. Until Covid is firmly stamped out, we will be living with a certain degree of caution. So, whilst businesses might have thought about putting things on hold “until this is all over”, now it’s a case of evolving to meet the new world.
We’ve seen amazing stories of businesses who’ve benefitted from the imposed lockdown – Peloton, we salute you. As well as this, we have a newfound appreciation for anyone whose job has enabled society to carry on going – NHS workers, retail assistants, delivery drivers and council workers.
But this isn’t going to go away anytime soon – we may be past the peak, but we there’s an indefinite stamp on how we now move forward. As a comms agency, we can’t tell you how to evolve your product or service, but we can offer some guidance about how you can communicate effectively. Here’s our take on the current situation…
One of the biggest communication challenges at the moment is getting it right – we’ve even seen Boris Johnson struggle with this, and he has a team of experienced people behind him, so if you’re a small business, how on earth do you “get it right”?
In our experience, we’ve seen businesses not want to talk about how well they’re doing during the pandemic because they don’t want to be seen as capitalising on a crisis, which is absolutely fair to say. But also, we do need to hear about success stories – it’s nice to hear if someone has won a new bit of business or their sales have gone up – but you do need to get that messaging right.
Also, if you’ve innovated during this time and changed the way you work – don’t be afraid to talk about this too – it could be a great story for your trade press. And if you’ve taken out a new piece of software to help your staff work from home easily, then do a news story about this – which, in turn, helps the software company.
So, in essence what we’re saying that it’s ok talk about your successes - BUT it’s important to think about how you do this and where – for example, your regional press might be interested in hearing a positive story about a business that’s doing well, as well as your social followers. But if your company has just taken a big fee from a 100-year-old man who raised millions for the NHS, maybe don’t shout about this?
Also, if you’ve done something amazing to help others during this time, don’t be afraid to shout about it. This doesn’t have to be boastful, but speaking as someone who can’t take any more cr@p news, it’s great to hear about businesses that are going the extra mile to support others. So, if you’re delivering food, making facemasks or just donating cash, make sure you tell people about it.
Also, a lot of people might not know how to help in a crisis – so if you share your ideas, it might inspire someone else to do the same.
It’s a fine line when you try and communicate charitable work – you don’t want to be seen to be doing it for the publicity but, now more than ever, we’re in it together. So, if you or your business has done something good, talk about it. And if you’re nervous about how to talk about it – give us a shout.
Hmmm, be clear in a pandemic. I promise I’m going somewhere with this. Perhaps this is more of an internal comms issue here but if you employ people – you have to be clear and consistent. Even if it’s “we don’t know how things will look next month” or “I’m struggling with this too”, just talk about it with the people you work with.
If you’ve had to furlough staff, it’s important to keep them informed about what happens afterwards – and if you’ve had to make other tough decisions about staffing, don’t hide behind your home office door, talk about it.
If you’ve done something that’s above and beyond, don’t forget to tell your staff about it. They’ll remember that you were a caring employer in the pandemic and won’t be hot-footing it to the competition if you show them you care and you have their safety and wellbeing at the forefront of your mind.
Whether you’re leading the country, a small company or a large corporate, the rules are the same. Communication to customers, clients and colleagues shouldn’t stop during the pandemic, but they have to be right.
About the Author
Lynsey Walden is Co-Director at Front Door Communications and has over 15 years of experience in public relations. She has worked for Lloyds Bank and Weber Shandwick, one of the largest PR agencies in the UK, before joining GoCompare in 2007 to manage PR and digital marketing for several years.