by Dan Ward
We often remind clients to “always discuss what you sell,” taking every opportunity to advocate for your company and its products or services.
But with coronavirus worries on nearly every consumer’s mind, let’s revise that rule to “almost always.” Unless you sell hand soap, now is not the time for an overt “buy my product” message.
It remains, however, a time to communicate – with your customers, with your community, and most importantly, with your employees.
This is an important time for business owners and managers to reassure all stakeholders that you have a plan, that you are working to keep them safe and that things will eventually return to normal.
For external stakeholders:
- Share the steps you are taking to step up cleaning/disinfecting of public spaces;
- Confirm whether you are compensating employees for sick time (which ensures you are focused on keeping ill team members from the workplace);
- Provide reminders about proper hygiene (“Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands”);
- Update your web and social messaging to include any changes being made in operations or with upcoming events;
- Set aside worries about connecting your brand to the coronavirus discussion. Your customers and community expect to hear from you about your plans and want to know that you are taking the outbreak seriously; and,
- Don’t focus exclusively on the virus and response. While it may not be time for high-pressure sales, keep celebrating your victories, share updates about products or services and communicate about the work your team may be doing in their communities. Customers expect to hear from you about coronavirus, but not ONLY about coronavirus.
For internal stakeholders:
- Share your plans for any operational changes that may occur and when/how you will make those decisions. For instance, when might you decide to have employees work remotely or cancel plans for business travel?
- Provide positive reinforcement about the company’s immediate and long-term future. Employees are watching the news and hearing about negative economic impacts. Reassure them that your company has weathered economic disruptions before and will do so again. If furloughs or workforce reductions become necessary, be open and transparent when those decisions are made, and share what the company is doing to provide for those impacted.
- Remind employees about the importance of handwashing and other personal hygiene practices.
- Provide links to sites for information about the virus, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization, and encourage them to look to official sources of information rather than social media or 24-hour news channels.
This may be a time to cut back on travel, inventory investments or direct sales, but in times of crisis, less communication is never the answer.