Before Christmas, I had planned to write about the importance of brands being honest and truthful.
Why? Because consumers, audiences – heck, let’s just call them people – were crying out for a bit of authenticity, something to trust in a world of misinformation. Innovation group Trendwatching even had a name for it – Factual Healing.
But then Christmas came. Then the bushfires. And now the Coronavirus.
Never has the need for truth, trust and honesty been brought so sharply into focus.
While it’s our government and medical fraternity that are at the coalface of this once-in-a-lifetime global happening, we’re all part of the same eco-system of information and needs – every brand, every community group, every not for profit, every media outlet. We’re all responsible for creating a bit of factual healing.
For the foreseeable future, we’re in an elongated crisis comms situation.
Here are some tips on the good practices you should be following to get through this tricky time. And you need to get it right. Everything that happens right now is as much about building your long-term reputation, than shoring up your short-term sales.
So, what does good comms look like right now?
- Stick to your knitting. Only put out information that is related to what you do. I’m not looking for a Coronavirus opinion from a shoe store, or my hairdresser. All I want to know from them is what they are specifically doing with their services to reduce the risk of infection.
- Leave no doubt. Be regular and consistent with your communications, particularly if you are on the frontline – like government, health departments, the media, grocery stores, pharmacies etc. Don’t leave people waiting for updates, hitting refresh on their browser, or giving them time to fill the silent space with their own assumptions. Woolies and Coles have done this well, emailing customers directly with comms signed by their CEO’s, to provide customers with updates on restrictions and the shopping situation.
- Make sure your message is clear, concise and has purpose. Don’t dither and don’t be ambiguous. If you are laying people off, say it. If you need people to do something, say it. Transparency and clarity will be your reputational friend right now, even if the news you’ve got to deliver is not great. The President of the WA branch of the Australian Medical Association Dr Andrew Miller has won a legion of fans for his hyper-clear directions on what is needed to be done to flatten the curve.
- Be factual. Be accountable for the information you provide. Quote or reference your sources, and make sure they are reputable.
- Use your channels. Where are people? (Hopefully) at home, so use your channels and reach them there. The toilet paper companies did a great job of using social media to get the message out that production was ramped up and more loo rolls were on their way.
- Be compassionate. You might be letting half your workforce go, but be sure to tell people that you care, and update them honestly on what the hope is for the future. Is this something you hope will be temporary, or forever? What conditions will be honoured? Despite the severity of the move, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce managed this with the airline layoffs, having already surrendered his pay for the year, expressing concern for those staff out of jobs and offering hope of a better future.
- Be positive. Not every story that is coming out of the COVID-19 crisis is bad, and God knows we need to find some slivers of hope. BHP has managed twice to get out good and helpful news – first that their time to pay was being reduced to support small businesses, and then that they were hiring 1000 more people across Australia because of Corona. Good one!
- And lastly – be like Norman Swan. Factual, honest with the bad news, compassionately softened with his gentle brogue, and with a daily podcast, regular and reliable. Norman Swan’s many years as an expert communicator has earned him the trust of millions. If in doubt, ask yourself, what would Norman do?
Right now you want your message to be clear, concise and with purpose. Build your reputation now, because we will make it to the other side.
And if you still have questions or need some help with your comms? Just get in touch. We’re here to help!
content, COVID-19, trust, truth