Today’s coronavirus crisis has created a new awareness for our clients (or reinforced the importance) of having a strong communication strategy. This includes communicating internally with employees and team members AND communicating externally with customers, fans, the community, etc. It’s also wise to send your message out across multiple channels so that it is more likely to reach your audience. This approach is important in a typical business climate, but it is crucial in crisis communication. Here are three key elements of any good communication strategy.
1) Have a Communication Plan/Best Practices Already in Place
What is your approach to communicating your brand, value, programs, services and crisis strategy?
- Define the message and deliver it on a regular cadence for communicating with all employees/teams. Your customers won’t clearly understand your brand’s messaging if your internal team isn’t on the same page.
- If you leave it up to your internal team to define the message, it may be varied – or even worse – not what you want to communicate at all.
- Determine your methods of communication – in-person meetings vs. virtual communication like Zoom, internal portals/chats, email, etc.
- Have a monthly company-wide meeting with an established agenda to communicate what’s happening at the company.
- Conduct weekly or bi-weekly check-in meetings with managers and team members.
- Deliver weekly or bi-weekly written communication (email, internal bulletin board or TV screen postings, or internal portals).
- Just as you would with internal communication, you should define your external messaging and deliver it on a regular cadence. You need to control your brand message across all mediums. In crisis communication like the coronavirus, share facts, keep people up to date. In marketing, stay in front of customers with the value you bring, products and services you offer, promotions, etc. Think: Top of Mind Awareness.
- Determine your methods of communication and frequency:
- All businesses should focus on digital (web, social, email, search).
- For retail businesses specifically, there are in-store opportunities as well (e.g. posters, POS signage, drive-by signage, direct mail, print media, etc.).
- Digital messaging should be updated weekly (or as often as necessary) due to the tremendous flexibility of this medium
- Print tactics are typically less frequent due to budget and operational challenges to change out the message.
2) Be Clear and Transparent
In crisis communication, we’ve reminded people that being clear and transparent is critical in building (or maintaining) trust in your brand. Tell people what’s happening factually. If you withhold information from people and they find out, then you could find yourself in a PR crisis, trying to manage the negative effects of the fallout.
The same holds true, however, with traditional marketing and communication.
- Be clear on what your products or services deliver – don’t make people overthink it.
- Don’t pretend your product or service delivers more than what it really can.
- Make sure your message can be understood quickly. People don’t have time to try to figure out what you mean – and they won’t take the time to do so. So, write clearly.
3) Be Proactive
This is often the biggest problem we see. You can’t have a good plan if you’re not ahead of the game. Remember, the first person to tell the message controls the message. This has been extremely apparent during COVID-19 communication.
In marketing, the challenge of not being proactive in your communication is that you won’t be heard clearly or won’t be heard in time.
- Plan promotions, programs, crisis communication, etc. in advance. So many of our clients come up with great ideas, but they wait until the last minute to implement them. By that point, there isn’t enough time to effectively communicate or promote what’s being offered. They missed their window of opportunity to drive the business that they could have had if they had started talking about it in advance.
- A good rule of thumb to remember is the Marketing Rule of 7. It takes at least 7 interactions with your message before it resonates, especially in the noise of constant newsfeeds and information overload. If you wait until the last minute, you won’t have time to get your messaging in front of your customers.
Timely, effective and clear communication is needed now more than ever. If you need help crafting a communication strategy – especially in these uncertain times – don’t hesitate to reach out.