However, the initial instinct to close-off or to give in to alarmist information circulating are not the right moves. Transparency and maintaining a spirit of solidarity are some obvious answers, but there’s more—here are some of our recommendations regarding public communications during the COVID-19 era.
Have you carefully planned your 2020 editorial calendar and have all your articles lined up? Well done, but now is the time to improvise. People are looking to the Web for information about the impacts of COVID-19 and you should be answering them. This is particularly the case for many financial institutions who have re-prioritized their communications. For instance, National Bank of Canada’s homepage displays the banner “Updates on COVID-19. We are here to help” instead of a campaign for investments.
Keep in mind that your online communications—whether it’s on your website, social media or emails—must be useful for your audience. This is true at all times, but even more so in a crisis. If your activity is unrelated to COVID-19, you can relay information from other companies. To ensure the legitimacy of your information, make sure you base yourself on government websites or other trustworthy media. For example, in Quebec, Radio-Canada has created a special newsletter to inform their audiences of the latest COVID-19 updates.
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This crisis period in no way minimizes your expertise, on the contrary. Take a stand to support your audiences in making informed choices. Remote work is the new standard and the novelty of it can be quite challenging. Fortunately, many articles with practical tips are published every day.
Pauline Laigneau, founder of the French podcast Le Gratin and co-founder of Gemmyo, featured Marylaure Meolans in an episode about HR management in the COVID-19 context. It's a great example of an opportunity seized and how you can benefit from the situation to create value for your audience, showcasing your expertise and strengthening your brand image.
If the crisis can indeed be synonymous with opportunities for brands, some rules, however, still apply. To avoid any negative backlash, think solidarity rather than profit. Feel free to share good deeds and smart ideas you see on your feed and put aside any overly aggressive communication. Small businesses are some of the biggest victims of the current economic crisis: If you are out of inspiration, don’t hesitate to promote these local entrepreneurs on your networks.
Industries like event planning and tourism are undoubtedly heavily impacted by the economic crisis caused by COVID-19. You may be tempted to hide your situation from the public, but it is not the right thing to do. No need to highlight your losses, but make sure you have a clear plan and tell your audience about it instead. Ecommerce website 24S.com published their game plan on LinkedIn. The message is clear, short and unambiguous.
Dear 24S Community,
We wanted to express our solidarity and assure you of our full mobilization to preserve the health of our customers, our partners and our teams. To date, our site is functioning normally and we continue to ensure deliveries all over the world. (…) Our customer service is more than ever listening to you in order to answer each of your questions. Take care of yourself and your loved ones.
Your 24S team
Measures to fight the pandemic reinforce the feeling of isolation for all of us, so show yourself! Talk to your community on social media and innovate. Have you never published videos to address your community? We bet you will have the time to do so in the coming weeks. Studies show that since COVID-19, the use of social platforms have exploded in China. TikTok users spent more than 3 billion hours on the app in the first week of March, that’s 130% more than a regular week in 2019.
Your employees should be your first target for communication. They are on the front lines of information regarding your business. Take action to facilitate discussions and increase the number of touchpoints (internal chat, emails, conference calls, etc.):
- Introduce short recurring online meetings to circulate information.
- Keep in mind that communication should not be one-way.
- Invite employees to ask questions, share their feelings and opinions towards social distancing. They are also the ambassadors of your brand on the Web, so make sure they are up to date with your news.
Of course, these strategies apply to the COVID-19 crisis, but could also be part of your regular communication tactics. And above all, don’t forget to stay innovative, creative, enthusiastic, positive, curious and inspiring.