As I read the email from my usual supermarket, the third I had received in as many weeks, it struck me that a month ago, I would probably have simply deleted it as irrelevant when it landed in my inbox. How times have changed, and with it, our thirst for knowledge.
They say knowledge is power and indeed, it can feel like it in these unprecedented times. The more access we have to relevant and factual information, the more able we are to make the right decisions and do the right things to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. And the more able we are to make a difference for society as a whole.
And so now, more than ever, organisations need to engage people through effective communications. As well as giving people the information they need – such as the Tesco CEO is doing in letting me know how can I pick up the food my family needs safely – we also need to take people with us, including on the journey that we all now find ourselves on.
So how can we engage people through our communications, keeping connected to our staff and customers, through this and beyond? Here are some key principles:
- Make it consistent: striking a balance between information overload and too few updates is important. We need to maintain regular channels of communication, and ensure that a communications void doesn’t open up between us and our staff and customers;
- Make it factual, clear, and accessible: we need to be really clear on the facts, particularly at a time when there is so much confusion, false messaging, myths and legends around. Through clarity – including and especially in language use – we can make our messages accessible to the widest possible audience – which is vital. We have a duty to not exclude anyone from the messages we are sharing;
- Be positive: we know that things are tough right now but it’s ok to be positive in our communications. We can be hopeful, which leads us onto…
- Reassure: people are desperate for reassurance and whilst we can’t and shouldn’t give false hope we can give reassurance around what we can and will do;
- Invite feedback and questions: people will want more information, and may have questions, and this is important as communications and engagement isn’t a one way street, it’s a two way dialogue. But – and this leads us on to…
- Be realistic: our customer service, and indeed other services – understandably – may be creaking at the seams. It’s ok to say so and manage expectations around response times;
- Be collaborative: our communications messages should at all times, and now more so than ever, have an equality to them. We are working together in partnership.
Perhaps though one of the most important qualities which comes through the best communications at this time is authenticity, the human touch. We are all going through something which is at turns confusing, scary, and upsetting. Sharing company messages with a human touch instantly allows us to connect to others: and we all need to feel connected, especially now.
May you stay safe and stay well at this time, knowing this too shall pass.