Real Talk Webinar Recap: How to Communicate During COVID-19

You asked, and we answered. During our first ever Real Talk Webinar, JS crisis communications experts Charles Edwards, Kim Hardcastle and Bryan Harris led a robust discussion on how companies should communicate during the COVID-19 pandemic and what communication strategies you can put in place to successfully reach internal and external audiences.

We understand it can be difficult to find the right cadence, tone and words to put your customers and team members at ease during this time. And while we may not be legal or medical experts, we are experts in helping those people and their organizations communicate as they make tough decisions. Right now, your communications should inform, educate, comfort and engage your internal and external audiences. To help get you there, you can watch our webinar or read our experts’ answers below. 

How often should you communicate internally? 

The short answer is at least once a day. While this may seem like a lot, we have heard again and again that teams want to hear from leadership as often as possible. And as the current political, economic and social environment rapidly evolves, it is essential that your team members have guidance and a clear understanding of what your leaders and company are doing to weather the storm. 

How often should you communicate externally? 

Unlike with internal audiences, there is no “one-size-fits all” answer to this question. But if you find yourself struggling to choose the perfect communication cadence, there are a few things to consider: 

  • What is your historical frequency? If your company is used to sharing daily, weekly or monthly communication with your customers, you shouldn’t feel the need to double or even triple the number of updates you are sending. Communicate with the same cadence you did before. 
  • Are your communications relevant? Ensure your communications are meaningful and timely, now more than ever. News is plentiful, so your messaging should be substantial and worth paying attention to.
  • How will your communications age? Before communicating, ask if your messaging would be as well received in a week as it would now. Every communication you have with a customer can either make a deposit or a withdrawal from their “trust bank.” During this time, you want to focus on building trust and a sense of community with your audience. 
  • How did you communicate before? Maintain the same channels of communication you used before – whether that be picking up the phone, sending an email or DMing your client on social. There’s no need to force your message on a new channel right now, especially if your current channels have been successfully reaching your audience. 
How do you balance sharing news about your brand in addition to COVID-19 related information? 

It really depends. Brands should ask themselves whether they have a voice in the conversation. If your brand has a voice, then use it. Ultimately, you should look at your corporate values and use them to guide your brand communications during this time. 

How should companies manage their social media right now? 

There are four key communication strategies companies should focus on to manage their social media presence during this time:

  1. Monitor the current conversation. What is your audience talking about? 
  2. Assess your voice in the conversation. Do you provide value to the greater conversation?  
  3. Reflect the tone of the current climate in your messaging. Even if your organization doesn’t have a voice in the conversation, if you have a large audience, you can use your platform to push out crucial updates and helpful information. 
  4. Unschedule any content that could come across as tone-deaf. 
Should you continue to communicate with your supplier-partner base?

Right now, your priority should be employing communication strategies that serve to inform your internal operations teams. After they are informed, you can include supplier-partners in your communications at a regular cadence. Make sure to communicate to them regularly and not just when you need something. They may also have unique solutions to problems you are facing right now, so don’t be afraid to reach out when appropriate.  

How can companies make a positive impact in their communities? 

In terms of CSR efforts, a lot of companies are doing amazing things right now. With that said, we recommend companies start by working on the inside out. Before you consider external communication strategies in favor of community engagement, make sure your employees and people are getting the support they need first. From there, you can get creative and find ways to assist your community. 

In the midst of so much uncertainty – how do we look ahead? 

We have preached caution to our clients in response to this question. Remember, you don’t have to be the first mover, just don’t be the last. The early bird gets the worm, but the early worm gets eaten. There will be a time to move, but you can’t look ahead until things are looking up. Before you move, you can prepare by tapping into industry knowledge. Stay tuned to the news and what’s going on around you and in your industry. Try to capture what is relevant to your business and filter any planned action with your company’s mission, vision and values in mind. Right now, you should focus on your people. What are they saying? What do they need? Remember, there is no company without its people.