Communicating during a pandemic is essential. And lots of messaging is happening with different levels of clarity. You can control how effectively you share your voice in what often feels like a wild-west communications landscape right now. At its core, your content needs to be timely, empathetic, and strategic — as emotions continue to fly with each new development. And research shows that uncertain communications reinforce pandemic risks.
To help you share clear, effective content, here are five key steps to follow:
1. Remember to communicate.
The first and best thing you can do is to communicate. Leaving people to guess whether you’re paying attention only feeds into sensational reactions. Tell your clients and customers the steps you’re taking to mitigate risk or how you can help. Inform your employees how you’re protecting their health and well-being — and share any changes you expect them to make. Be available when people have questions.
2. Be transparent.
Transparency breeds trust, which lowers anxiety. Failing to share details people need to know only fuels distrust. If you stay quiet or beat around the bush, you further hurt everyone’s ability to take sound, measured actions that can protect them, your company, and your community. Everyone’s reality is changing at an incredible pace, so the most important decision is to be open and honest about what you know right now.
3. Control tone.
You can help people manage their reactions by setting the right tone. Even the smallest type-treatments (like using lots of bold) and language choices (like too many exclamation marks) can affect how audiences receive your messages. You can choose to be sensational and encourage fear — or, choose a tone that is logical and helpful. This voice will help drive which way your audiences react.
4. Use “we” and “you.”
Speak like you’re in a conversation and talk directly to your audiences using “we” and “you.” As soon as you communicate in the third person (they, them), you create distance from your audiences. This distance makes people disengage, because the communications no longer feel personal or relevant. While social distancing helps control the virus’ spread right now — no one needs emotional distance from your communications. To connect your audiences with important information and actions, they need to feel and know that you care and that details are relevant. A conversational approach supports these outcomes.
5. Make information easy to find.
Breaking news hits nearly every hour. And, people are distracted, confused, and scared — so they aren’t reading thoroughly. Make sure audiences quickly find information they need to know and do by using clear subject lines, headers, and bullets. Is school canceled? Should everyone work from home? Put the most critical details up front.
Remember: Communications are crucial during times like these. By staying on top of your messaging, you can help calm concerns, support positive action, and reinforce your commitment to clarity. If you’d like additional strategies and support to guide you through content goals, we’re ready to help.
PS: Want some additional reading? Check out these resources:
Harvard Business Review: What Are Companies’ Legal Obligations Around Coronavirus
Center for Plain Language: America’s Plain Language Authorities Share Concerns About Coronavirus Outreach