Coronavirus and your communications plan: Staying connected with your audiences
As the world grapples with COVID-19, communicators in health care, hospitality, government, professional services, education and every other industry are working to ensure their businesses and employees are safe and supported — despite many unknowns and, sometimes, a strong sense of powerlessness.
As communicators, in fact, we have a lot of power. In the face of unprecedented challenges, we have unique opportunities to stay connected with our audiences, providing vital information and context as each new day of this pandemic delivers new uncertainties and challenges.
Your audiences are likely facing anxiety over their health and financial security, among other issues. Your communication efforts should reduce that anxiety, providing relevant, timely information — and offer strategies your audiences can use (other than buying toilet paper) to make their lives easier and reclaim their own sense of control.
DH is in the Coronavirus trenches with a number of clients and industry partners. We want to share what we’ve learned so far. We hope these ideas serve as a jumping-off point for you as you look for creative ways to communicate with clients, customers, employees and others.
Make a new plan. You may have started 2020 with a grand vision for your communications program. Audiences you were planning to prioritize, strategies you were planning to implement — it was a lovely plan. COVID-19 requires us to change the plan. How has this pandemic shifted your audiences’ priorities? How has it created the opportunity to reach new audiences? How have your offers or calls to action been impacted? Reconvene leadership in your organization and revise your communications plan to respond to this unprecedented moment. You may reveal new opportunities. At minimum, you’ll have a better chance of staying ahead of the issue and remaining connected to your audiences.
Support a virtual customer experience. From live events to environmental advertising, you may have planned for strategies meant to target audiences out-of-home — and now they may be hunkered in-home. Consider how to reach audiences virtually. Now is the time to re-evaluate your digital strategies and to think about engaging your audiences in new ways:
- Digital radio: Digital radio advertising on Pandora, Spotify and SoundCloud could be a great way to reach people working from home.
- Podcasts: With audiences in isolation, now may be the time to start a podcast and grow a new audience around a topic or issue related to your brand. Podcasts also make it easy to feature guests as you call in contributors. Or seek opportunities for your own team members to serve as guests on other podcasts.
- Livestreaming and virtual events: Maybe you had a customer or employee event planned, or you want to host one. Facebook Live, Vimeo and other tools make livestreams and virtual events easier than ever. Use a digital invitation pipeline to drive attendance.
- Social media: It’s time to double down on your social strategy (or to develop one). Leveraging features and platforms like Stories, Instagram TV and TikTok videos (especially for younger GenZ-ers) can help you maintain a personal connection with your audience amid social distancing.
Provide thought leadership. Most organizations have already released e-mails or official statements addressing their COVID-19 prevention and mitigation strategies. Have you also considered how you can provide thought leadership as new questions and concerns related to the pandemic arise? Topics such as battling stigma, supporting the success of a remote workforce and the best ways to support local economies through crisis offer fertile ground. Consumers are hungry for information about how best to rid their homes of germs, how to exercise without going to the gym or how to entertain their families during self-quarantine. Think about the value you can bring to your audiences and offer solutions via blogs, LinkedIn, e-newsletters and other channels.
Support your workforce. Some companies are determining the best ways to support telework. Others are struggling with shrunken workforces or doing their best to support employees whose children are out of school for weeks. Regardless, it’s important to consider the health, safety and well-being of your workforce. Send a clear message to your employees about your organizational values and priorities and how they relate to your COVID-19 response. Share your plans for addressing your customers’ needs and telework options. Explain how you’ll answer ongoing questions about paid leave and how your benefits plan provides for COVID-19 testing, treatment and other resources. Plan now for your response when an employee tests positive for the virus or has come into contact with a confirmed patient — including your internal response and your external communications plan.
Hardship offers us all opportunities to support one another. How will you, as a communicator, take this opportunity to shine?