Amongst our team, we collectively have decades of experience dealing in communications and messaging ~ and some particularly tricky and even tragic times when it comes to crisis communications and reporting. It’s brutal, stressful, stringent, complex and emotionally exhausting. So we want to help YOU (business owners and organisations), by offering a few tips on some DO’s and DON’T’s during this particularly uncertain time – especially when it comes to digital communications.
FYI – prior to lunchtime today we spent most of our time on the phone – talking to our clients, changing project briefs, moving marketing budgets, fact-checking messaging, getting the latest news updates and more on COVID-19. This translated into a pretty crazy day – and for our team, will continue through to late in the evening most nights now for March/April as we roll out a range of comms support collatoral for our clients. Keep in mind, our generation has never seen anything like this before, so while we’ve worked in the space of politics, public health, fatality, suicide, trauma, disease and more – we’re now walking, talking and typing in uncharted territory.
However, with our experience in crisis comms, a week worth of highly emotional/political conversations with various stakeholders, here’s our best advice:
1. COMMUNICATE: On social media, to email databases or other means. Let your clients/customers know that you’re responding to COVID-19 in the best way you can and that public health/safety is your #1 priority. This might be small things like using materials you can wash at higher heat to kill germs; or something major, like postponing major events or shutting down large facilities for the time being.
2. BE COMPASSIONATE: Remember – this is an uncertain, anxious and scary time for many people – business owners included. Be kind in your social comments, even if you think they’ve said the ‘wrong’ thing, they’re mostly doing they’re best.
3. FACT CHECK AGAIN + AGAIN + AGAIN: At least 2-3 times. If you’re unsure on something, DO NOT post it, or share it anywhere. Use your staff to sanity check everything in case you’ve missed something, written something insensitive without thinking, or just made a simple mistake.
4. TALK TO YOUR TEAM: Share what you’re seeing, learning, hearing from the COVID-19 discussions. Look at who in your industry is communicating well and who isn’t. Share the knowledge and adapt your own comms activities to this.
5. PROVIDE LINKS: Where you can, push people to the best / most reputable source of information for your subject. This may be the WHO, SA HEALTH, Government web pages or other. NONE of you are experts in global disease management, so let’s allow the experts to be the authority on this issue.
6. FOLLOW TRENDS: Most people right now are interested in info on COVID-19, so if you want cut-through, find something interesting to say/share about this. If you’re in education – find a way to teach kids (and parents) about germs; if you’re in hospitality – share details on the importance of shopping local during an economic downturn; if you’re in beauty – share advice on what tricks you guys use in the salon to keep things sterile/safe. People want information, so make it relevant.
1. BE AN ASSHOLE: Don’t share polarising/political opinions on your business page – this can alienate people and incite rage amongst people struggling with the crisis. If you really feel you need to share something like this, do it from your personal social media pages (but even still, we’d suggest a chat with a close friend would be far more therapeutic).
2. BE A KNOW-IT-ALL: Don’t try to tell people what they need to know (you’ll probably get it wrong) – instead, tell them what you’re doing in response and push them to the right info online (there’s lots).
3. TRY TO BE A NEWS SOURCE: Unless you are a bloody news source. Leave the reporting to the trained experts. They’ve been through intensive training for these sorts of events, let them do their thing and don’t muddy the waters.
4. GO ON AND ON AND ON: A bit like we are here (bad example). People are getting news from everywhere, they’re overloaded. Keep your messaging simple, concise and to the point. Avoid repetition and too much opinion (ie. everyone knows the sitaution is ‘dire’, ‘terrible’, ‘devastating’ etc – get to the point.
5. GO SILENT: If you’re scared about what to write/post – talk to someone who is good in these scenarios for their advice. Those who go silent, may be assumed closed down for business, or not responding to the pandemic. Show that you’re responsive, and share any innovations in terms of what you’re doing to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
***ASK US MORE: We’ll serve up some more comms advice as the week goes on, so hit us up if you have any questions you need answered, and we’ll do our best!