If there’s one key point here, it is this: regular, open and on-going communications with clients, staff, business contacts, prospects and suppliers.
1. Have a plan. Who is the main contact to run it? What processes do you need to put in place to communicate breaking news in an ordered, measured way including any sign offs you want to put in place and checklists of the medium through which you’ll communicate?
2. Agree your organisation’s messages and tone of voice. Empathetic, reassuring, measured, supportive for instance. Business as usual, you’re there for them, shouldn’t hesitate to call.
3. Give people facts as you know them. Even though there is a lot of uncertainty, be honest about this. People will naturally fill in the gaps if they don’t have the information they want, which only increases anxiety. If you don’t know what’s happening, say that and say you will come back to them as soon as possible once you have the answer. And even if you come back and say you don’t yet have any further information, people still like to know that you haven’t forgotten and are working on it. Working in this way underpins people’s trust in you and your credibility.
4. Be crystal clear. Use words that a 12-year old will understand. In times of anxiety and change people don’t hear everything. Don’t be afraid of repeating your key messages.
5. What can you do to help? I know you are already considering the impact of our current situation and what you can do to help your clients. They may need your support or at the very least will welcome you asking how you can help.
6. Reach out. To all clients for whom you’re delivering current work, services or products. Let them know the current state of play or what effect the situation is having on that work.
7. Dealing with increased volume of calls. How can you deal with the increase in call or email volumes and minimise wait times and anxiety? Aim to reply as promptly as you can to them. If necessary, consider short-term help from call answering services.
8. Information on your website. Most firms will have already put notices on their websites already. The informationis about how you’re dealing with situation, what you’ve put in place and how to contact you, updating contact details if needs be and business hours. Review this at least every few days to update as necessary.
9. Share any information you need to on social media. On LinkedIn (company and individual pages), Facebook, Twitter so that your clients and others in your business community can see it.
10. Update your email signatures. Make sure it include a quick note about what you’re doing, how to contact you or the office and any links to relevant blogs or information on your website.
11. Keep your regular marketing channels going. Now is not the time to go to ground. If you possibly can, keep things going even if it’s the bare minimum. For instance, if you do a monthly newsletter and use it to write on topical issues, how to’s, keep doing it, speaking to things that will uppermost in your clients’ minds.
12. Personal one to one messages. Reach out to ask how your clients, suppliers, business contacts are doing. That personal contact will be much appreciated.
13. Consider the commercial implications for you and your clients. Be prompt and open about cancellations, postponements, refunds, being out of stock and so on. You might need to take some tough decisions, but be as compassionate and supportive as you can in doing so.
14. Information on key issues affecting any of your circle of contacts or clients – if you can offer clarity on anything topical that is uppermost in people’s minds, share your advice, guidance or thoughts. Share that information directly with contacts and clients but also widely on your website, LinkedIn and other social media.
15. Take time to meet (virtually if need be) as a team at least weekly if not more frequently to discuss what’s going on, challenges, how to solve them, idea generation. Let people bring to the table both short-term issues but also medium-term things which will take some thinking and planning to consider and action. For instance, there is not a quick answer to pivoting how your business works and the implications for the future so it needs to be considered over a period of time, starting now.