COVID-19: 10 Tips for Comms to Clients, Staff & Other Audiences
24 March 2020
COVID-19 and the coronavirus pandemic affect every organization. Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you share information with clients, staff, vendors, donors and others.
1. Update your audiences yesterday.
At a minimum, let people know if/when you’re operating, how your business or service model is different, how/when they can connect with you. Do this on your website, across your social media and through your email lists.
2. Tell external and internal audiences how you will communicate.
For external audiences, choose 1 channel people can rely on for all essential info. Don’t make them chase down info across multiple channels.
For staff, choose at least one day/week for email updates, tell your staff what it is and communicate every week on that day, even if the message is “Nothing new to report.” Include laid off staff if you hope to hire them back.
3. Include the date.
If posting info to your site, include that day’s date. It gives context and signals that you’re engaged in keeping the info you provide current.
4. “Open for business” is OK.
This isn’t the time to hard sell, but it’s appropriate to want and need continuity. Frame what you do or offer in terms of how those things are helpful right now. Skip the marketing speak completely.
5. Be concise and use simple, direct language.
Write or speak (if doing videos) using personal pronouns: “We,” “I,” “you,” “our,” etc. Use plain language in simple sentences. And because people have a lot to process right now, be brief. If you add a note of encouragement, don’t wax on.
6. Don’t over-communicate.
There’s a ton of communications noise right now and many people are feeling overwhelmed. Be judicious about when and why you reach out.
7. Don’t provide general info.
Don’t bloat external comms with general information, including health and safety guidelines. Stick to what's specific to your organization. Include safety protocols in internal comms only as it directly relates to operations and staff work environments.
8. Don’t overthink it.
Right now, it’s more important to communicate quickly than perfectly. Don’t agonize over details. Better to be 80% helpful now than 100% useless later.
9. Use correct terminology.
An easy solution is to follow AP guidelines on language for talking about the new coronavirus and COVID-19: https://www.apstylebook.com/topical_most_recent
10. Practice safe comms.
It should go without saying, but don’t email, record video or post to social media under the influence of any judgment-altering substance, Rx or otherwise. This includes being jacked up on caffeine!