All of us are navigating uncharted waters right now and communicators are certainly not exempt. We are being looked to for guidance on how to communicate to customers, what messages to share and how to adjust current marketing campaigns.
You won’t find examples of communication around the current situation in any agency’s portfolio. While we are all new to this and living and learning as we go, there are general communication best practices that organizations can employ to ensure they are keeping up with the lightning speed pace of this pandemic.
Hold daily check-in meetings.
Marketing and communication departments are swamped right now, but a 10-to-15-minute check-in each morning (or each week depending on your industry) can save time (and maybe some headaches) in the long run. With the speed in which new information is being shared by local, state, and federal officials, it’s a best practice to touch base to discuss the updates, what the plans are for the day, and who is responsible for what.
Develop a message map or approved messaging.
In times like this, it’s imperative to have consistent messaging, so you don’t confuse your audience. Everyone on your team needs to be speaking the same language and sharing the same messages. Develop a message map or talking points to ensure these messages stick with those doing your communicating. Yes, the current situation is changing day to day, but some messages within your organization may remain the same (Ex: we are open for carryout, we offer telehealth visits).
Don’t go dark.
While it may currently seem like COVID-19 information overload, it’s crucial now, more than ever, to show your clients you care. Do not stop communication altogether. Instead, readjust your messaging. For example, if you are a specialty physician who cannot book new appointments due to shelter in place guidelines, shift your social media messages from strong calls to action (like get screened or make an appointment) to thought leadership.
Develop the right messages for your audience.
Think about your audience. What would they want to know in relation to your organization as it relates to COVID-19? It might be what you are doing to keep them healthy and safe. It could be how you can help them navigate a shift in income. Or maybe how you can still help them if they need you. Know your audience and message to them. Be genuine, honest and as transparent as possible knowing people are worried, overwhelmed and scared of the unknown.
Don’t forget your most valuable assets.
While planning your organization’s external communications, it’s important not to forget your internal audience. Develop a list of the information you need to share with your employees. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what questions they may have and be proactive and ready to address them. When it’s time to share information, be sure to get your messages out there early and often. Consider multiple channels like internal meetings, emails, intranet messages and Q&A sessions.
Just like you would do when a marketing campaign or strategy is over, evaluate your success. When all is said and done, discuss how well your organization communicated with your internal and external audiences. What worked well and what could you improve upon? Yes, each situation is unique, and we all hope we don’t have to experience an outbreak like this again, but this will help you better manage a potential crisis in the future.
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