The Art of Communicating During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Crisis communications coronavirus

We are in the midst of tumultuous times with government and business leaders around the world having to weigh up decisions impacting lives and the financial livelihoods of people around the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic impacts everyone – whether you are a street trader in Manila or a wealthy business owner in Michigan. And locally in South Africa, as the news sinks in that our lockdown has been extended until end April 2020, business leaders are grappling in the sea of uncertainty as the country teeters on the brink of one of its worse financial periods.

Over the past two months I’ve read widely, ranging from credible media articles to investor reports analysing the impact on the local economy and businesses. In addition, my inbox is flooded by emails – from local restaurant owners to international CEOs of hotel chains and airlines – all signing off with the informal greeting: ‘stay safe, stay at home’.

However, some businesses and brands communicate far better than others. Their emphatic communications stand out and this helps to protect their reputations in these uncertain times. These are the five elements that make certain communications more impactful than others. It’s the 1Q and 5Cs approach that we recommend to our clients while communicating in crisis time.

  • The Q is for quick. Don’t wait to communicate. The longer you wait to communicate with your clients, the less caring you seem.
  • The first C is for CEO. Ensure you have communications from the top, from the most senior person in the business. We need leadership. Now is not the time for communications from the head of brand or product. I want to hear what the CEO’s view is and what she or he is going to do during these times.
  • The second C is for consistent. Craft your three to five key messages and ensure that these messages are communicated, consistently and accurately, on all your channels, from your website and social channels to a mailer to all your clients.
  • The third C is for clear. Cut the fluff and tell your story in short punchy sentences that resonate with your audience. When you speak to your staff, your message is more personal and caring than when you address a media conference. Tailor your comms to your audience.
  • The fourth C is for caring. Be human and don’t be afraid to express your own uncertainty. Be compassionate; make an impact by helping those that need it most, the vulnerable in our society.
  • The fifth C is for corrective action. And this is most probably the most important element. Consumers are struggling and they are expecting businesses to come forward with a premium holiday, an extension of their booking period, a grace period for paying fees, a discount where possible… Governments around the world have launched stimulus packages in an effort to bolster the economy. And consumers will look towards the brands and corporates whom they have supported to now support them too.

To recap: these are unprecedented times. Ensure your communications are from the top, and that you are quick, caring, consistent and clear, while giving your customers some unexpected value.

Atmosphere can help you navigate this journey. As communication experts, we are your partner and we will provide guidance and expertise every step of the way. We have a wealth of experience in crisis management solutions and reputation management services. Contact us to find out how we can assist you.