Clear communication is always an asset to business operations, but it is even more critical in times of uncertainty. Regardless of whether your business is currently operating with pandemic safety measures, or operating at either partial or full capacity, do not under-estimate your responsibility to both your employees and customers in regularly and efficiently disseminating how your business is impacted by and is handling the current challenges.
Look no further than your new media outlets, discussion forums, and social platforms to see how quickly theorizing, misinformation, and gross leaps in logic spreads like wildfire. In the absence of your precise and regular communication with all individuals critical to your business, you can expect that assumptions will be made, and they likely may not be in favor of your company since the negativity bias is so prevalent in human thinking.
Humans are social creatures, we like to have the sense of belonging, your correspondence fosters inclusivity, loyalty, and a sense of safety when the world seems to be spiraling out of control. People hate the sense of helplessness, and the more control they feel they are afforded, the more positively they will respond. Likewise, a large majority of people are either uncomfortable with or outright opposed to changes in their environment, so the earlier individuals know how your business is and intends to continue to respond to this chaotic pandemic world, the more time they have to adjust to and reconcile themselves to the realities of rapidly evolving business operations.
Now we certainly cannot please everyone, but communicating early and often will help you to not only stem any wasted efforts in tempering erroneous and potentially hurtful falsities, but more importantly, it will help you identify those employees and customers with whom you should continue to focus your efforts. As unemployment and market insecurity continue to abound, individuals and companies will quickly reassess and align their priorities (particularly financially), you cannot afford to aimless market your products or services, let alone alienate critical staff who are both the foundation and quite frequently the face of your company.
Here are four tips for current critical business communication:
- Honesty Is Always the Best Policy: Is your business struggling? Are you facing or have you made difficult decisions in light of the pandemic? Almost no person nor company has been immune to significant impacts, so pretending otherwise is alienating. Be brief, yet positive in light of these challenges, it denotes authenticity and resiliency which is what people want to see in companies for which they choose to continue doing business. You may also be surprised how people rally to an expressed need when it is genuinely communicated, yet couched as a temporary obstacle in the road. For example:
a) In light of temporary policies deeming our industry as non-essential and thereby subject to closure during this phase of the pandemic, we are working with the reality of a much reduced cash flow and inflexibility in our lease payment structure. While this is not ideal, it is really allowing us to flex our creative problem-solving skills! We will keep you apprised of our progress on this challenge. In the meantime, here is what we can continue to do to provide our services/products…
- Elucidate Your Compliance with Public Health Protocols: No this is not a time to jump into a political debate or proclamations of judgement, but businesses (typically their owners or leaders) make decisions based on their perspective of reality and that dictates compliance, begrudging compliance, or outright noncompliance with the current pandemic health protocols. It is the right of both your employees and clients to understand how your company is or is not acceding to temporary public health measures. We cannot make assumptions about the needs of others, so providing upfront details on what can be expected in the office or with your company will allow people to make decisions that are right for themselves. Likewise, this helps businesses to more quickly align their efforts with those parties who can accept or align with the operational decisions that have been made. Address this area of concern by directly outlining the current safety protocols or operating principles for which your business is adhering. For example:
a) In alignment with state and local pandemic health safety protocols, and well as current evolving industry standards, you can expect the following measures and compliance needs in our office/store…
- Consistency is Key: Even if not much has changed in a few weeks, don’t allow your business to become relegated to a past memory, you want your clients to maintain a desire to do business with you when the circumstances allow. At least monthly send a brief note out to your clientele, it is ok to say that nothing has substantially changed since the last communication (assuming this is true), but that you have appreciated their past patronage and look forward to renewing engagement as possible.
- Keep It Simple, Keep It Brief: We already know that individuals are inundated with messaging (texts and emails and social mentions, oh my!), so if you want to be effective, not only do you have to take the time to regularly communicate with your audience, but it is essential that messages are brief and to the point. It is always a good practice to provide bullet points of essential take-aways, so that those who do not take the time to read your entire message can still scan and pick up the main points.
Effective business communication has alway been a critical toolset, do not forget that these changing times make it evermore important. While the longer term business effects of the pandemic are unknowable, now is the time to leverage communication to maximize the goodwill and loyalty that may be needed to weather some of the economic adventures to come.