Alberta entered its second state of public health emergency on Tuesday, November 24, 2020. With businesses entering a second near-lockdown and required to implement a new set of health and safety measures, owners across the province are feeling the pressure to act. These considerations, filtered through a flow of federal regulations and different provincial and municipal mandates, make it easy for businesses to fall into the trap of mixed messaging – or even a complete lack of communications overall.
Here are five communication ideas for marketers, owners, and business leaders to help push through analysis paralysis and halt reaction road burn.
External Messaging – Immediate COVID Communication
There are three clear items that need to be discussed with external audiences in a timely manner: your customers need to know that you are still open, that you are operating with an unwavering commitment to safety at all levels of the organization, and that you care about them. If you need help to focus this messaging, the following is a guide on how to break down what you should say.
You are Open and Here for Your Customers
Your customers want to know how Alberta’s new measurements might affect or alter their relationship with you. Even though this is the second time the province has entered a lockdown, the circumstances and intensity are a little different, and your customers will wonder if the new regulations mean a change in service, or if it is ‘business as usual’. This is where an email or social post (that leads to a web post) discussing how you are complying with regulations and any changes to service is essential. Consider things like a change in hours, closures, and mask requirements. Be sure to clearly convey these points both digitally and physically, such as on a poster at your office location. The goal is to answer questions your customers have before they ask them.
You Take COVID-19 Seriously
After you review changes that directly impact your customers, focus on any internal changes that you are making that illustrates your firm and unwavering commitment to safety at every level of your organization. Reinforce this message with a tangible example or two of what you are doing to protect not only your customers, but also your team and community, behind the scenes. Bring to their attention that each decision you make or action you take is for the health and safety of everyone in this new social atmosphere.
Next, you need to communicate one more critical thing: you care. When you started this business, or when you joined a company, you did so for a reason, and beyond that, your business is made up of real people with a belief in that purpose and a genuine care for others. Own that by sharing authentic messages of understanding and compassion. Create a bond with your customers by letting them know you will meet their needs in any environment, and that come hell or high water, you will find a safe way forward.
Internal Messaging – COVID Communication Planning for External Action
To quickly deliver succinct messaging to your customers, you first need to be organized internally. A prepared business will have a communications plan that provides solutions for a variety of scenarios you may face.
Have an Actionable Communications Plan
Effective communications planning can start with an immediate need and work back to being prepared for the future. Location is everything and understanding some of the potential hurdles your business will face in your local area is key to planning for the future. Creating an actionable plan now allows you to act quickly and confidently further down the road.
Prepare for Every Scenario
No matter the situation, you need to be ready. Just as businesses financially prepare, creating a situational awareness plan with a growth strategy helps you and your customers in the long run. Your plan should include:
- Identifying real life forces that could impact your business, such as environmental situations like floods, health and safety situations like the COVID-19 pandemic or SARS, and media or cultural situations like #BlackLivesMatter
- Level of situation (red/yellow/green) and pointers on what needs to be communicated, to whom, and how that coordinates with your level of operation (open/closed/remote)
- A general budget for additional costs that may arise, and correlated items – like technology for cyber security or developing an online store – should be listed here. Also, list potential internal operational costs such as masks, hand sanitizer, and equipment needed to work from home
- Identify business development opportunities through every cycle of the situation. Generate scenarios in which this plan can be broken apart and pieced back together to meet the circumstances of your situation
- Assign specific actionable items to specific people and identify the rules within which the business needs to operate. Know what departments need to be involved and whether there are legal obligations to be considered with each tactical action
- For speed of use when the plan is needed, the written aspect should be short and to the point
We’ll Come Out Of This Together
Preparing for the future means a strong internal plan that delivers both inside your organization and beyond it, no matter the environment – but with our quickly-changing business landscape, now is the time to plan. From strategy to implementation, we are in this together and our team is here to help. If you want to chat about your options for strategic planning and communication, we are ready to listen.