As COVID-19 continues to spread, this is a challenging time for companies everywhere, as they worry about everything from keeping their workplaces safe to maintaining business operations. Business leaders are inundated with information and charged with making decisions that can have long-term impacts on health, safety and the bottom line.
This makes COVID-19 communications even more important. During uncertain times, it’s extremely important to communicate with everyone involved in your business, whether it’s employees, customers or suppliers. And it’s important to communicate in a clear, calm style that’s easy to understand.
Six things to consider in communicating about COVID-19’s impact on your business:
1) Think about each of your key audiences. One message for COVID-19 communications does not necessarily fit all.
Different audiences have different concerns, and your communications need to focus on their needs. Employees need to hear how you are making the workplace safe, how you will be handling sick leave, and if they’re expected to be in the office. Customers will want to hear about digital options for doing business with you, along with steps you are taking to make your locations safe. And suppliers will need to hear about any changes you are making to procedures in response to coronavirus concerns.
2) Be clear and concise. Attention spans are short, especially when there is rapidly changing information about the coronavirus pandemic. Be clear, concise and complete in your communications.
Concise writing helps the reader understand the information that you’re conveying and your call to action. When possible, use bullet points when describing steps or processes.
3) Describe your safety processes. Certainly, it’s important to tell your employees, customers and suppliers you are following CDC guidelines for cleanliness. But telling them how you are taking concrete steps to make – or keep – your facilities safe is more reassuring.
To help reassure your audience that you’re doing everything you can, offer some details about the steps you’re taking, whether it’s posting signs and hand sanitizer throughout the office, or creating guidelines for keeping personal interactions to a minimum.
4) Offer complete information. Many businesses are postponing or cancelling conference and events, or offering the option for employees to work remotely. Outline the timeframe, such as how long someone should work at home, when possible.
If possible, have new dates to announce when you announce the cancellation of a conference or event. And be sure you include information on how attendees can get refunds if the new dates don’t work for them.
5) Reiterate ways to minimize the risk. Post information on preventing the spread of illness and make it clear that anyone who does not feel well should stay at home. Customers, employees or suppliers who are sick should not come to your facilities.
Emphasize in your internal communications that your company encourages employees to stay at home if they are not feeling well. And review your sick leave policies to account for the possibility that people may need to be out for a length of time.
6) Over communicate. It’s tempting to feel like you’re talking about the situation too much. But for worried employees, customers or suppliers, it’s never enough.
This is a situation that is evolving quickly, so communicate frequently, especially if there are changes in the situation or in your policies. And if some of the information is repetitive, that’s okay.
Read B2 co-founder and principal Kyle Parks' tips for communicating during the pandemic in the Business Observer.