Communication has always been a crucial element of business operations, regardless of the size or location of the company in question. Being able to communicate effective is crucial to defining a brand and putting the best foot forward with customers. When done effectively, business communication can boost a company’s products and services to immense profitability, or sink the company, if done poorly.
Business communication in normal times is very different from business communication in times of crisis. The stakes are higher, and leaders must execute their communication efforts perfectly. Here are a few strategies you can employ to do just that:
Resist the urge to profiteer
When it comes to a crisis situation, the worst position to be in is that of an organization that is seeking to take advantage of the situation. When people cannot blame the cause of a crisis on anyone, they will likely be all too happy to focus all their anger on people they believe are making it worse. Needless to say, the best (or worst, actually) example of this is all the businesses that hiked prises during the health crisis, making essential supplies too expensive for many people to afford.
Apart from severely damaging their brand equity, many of those businesses are facing regulatory censure. On the milder end of the scale, opportunist tactics to make sales must be avoided in your communications. For instance, Subway’s tying the receipt of masks to purchases was a very poorly thought out and damaging approach. Instead, focus on bringing relief to your customers and the public by highlighting discounts or incentives your business is offering, and how those gestures will help people cope with the crisis better.
Helpful and timely information
In a time of crisis such as this, people will understandably have a lot of uncertainty regarding what to do. Your brand can help by sending information that is relevant to the time and place, and helping people make the right decisions to stay safe and ensure their health. Such gestures will certainly be remembered and appreciated, and the degree of those emotions will be directly tied to how timely and helpful your content is, as explained extensively in this McKinsey report.
When doing this though, it is important to be cautious and ensure that you are only sending verified, accurate information. According to Yaniv Masjedi, CMO of Nextiva, “Sending nothing at all is better than sending something that turns out to be inaccurate or worse still, harmful. If possible, you should also link to or at least reference to the sources for any information you are citing, where such information is scientific, legal or similarly sensitive in nature.” That will increase how helpful the content is because people can go cross-check or get more info, but crucially, it also gives you a layer of insulation, in the event of any subsequent issues with the information.
Stay responsive and consistent
In a crisis on the scale of the ongoing health crisis, everyone will understandably be rattled, so it’s important for your business to continue communicating with customers using all available technology channels. You should do everything in your power not to seem as if you are in panic mode to customers. The most common ways this manifests is when people (customers, partners, media) cannot elicit a response from you. Silence gives the opportunity for those people to fill in their presumptions and as everyone’s panicking, those presumptions are likely he worst kind. This can lead to lost sales or other opportunities, as well as a damaged reputation where such silence amounts to poor customer service.
Businesses also often lack PR cohesion during a crisis, resulting in a situation where enquirers are hearing one thing from the Facebook page and getting different information from the Twitter account. Obviously, that would not inspire confidence in customers that yours is a business they can trust at the time. The cause of such issues is often teammates being out of touch with one another. The first solution is to ensure that there is a comprehensive communications plan from the beginning and the second is to make sure that the plan is updated and accessible by everyone who might be speaking on behalf of the company.