As business leaders you’ve obviously prepared for a lot of possibilities and situations. You’ve likely done strategy sessions around contingency planning, and had meetings or drafted documents for scenario or emergency planning. But, only the most intensive planning could prepare anyone for a global pandemic. 

We’re sure you’re sick of seeing the word “unprecedented”, but the fact of the matter is these are uncertain times. Uncertainty leads to fear, which can lead to further anxiety and rash decision making. At the same time, people (business owners; people with spouses and families; people in the public and private sectors—everyone) is feeling the responsibility to be safe and careful.  

So what can you tell you customers or clients at a time like this? 

First, there are some things you can easily update on your website or socials to help keep people feel informed. 

  • Update your hours of operation 
    • If your hours have changed drastically consider adding a banner or clearly marked section with this information or linking to this information 
  • Consider adding a banner or click through link where people can get COVID-19 related information (if that’s applicable to your business). For example: 
    • We are/are not open for business
    • Here is how you can do business with us
    • Here is what our relationship looks like right now
    • Here is how we will support you (service, billing, sales, support)
    • (if possible) Here is how we will support the community
    • As things change, keep this section up to date with frequent updates as needed 
  • You can also consider implementing real-time or quick response communication tools, like:
    • Text chat
    • Email contact form
    • Active phone numbers (click to call)
    • Live chat (web or FB messenger) 
  • Use image posts on social media to post up to date and relevant information like above (how you can help, changes to service, etc.)
    • Ensure to do this with some frequency as you 
    • Pin a post to the top of your page 

Outside of your website or socials, you might also want to consider updating your Google My Business page. 

If e-newsletters are part of your communications plan, give careful consideration to what absolutely needs to be said, and at what frequency. Most brands are using their email acquisition lists to send messages to customers—you don’t want to fall into the category of spam because of circumstance. 

Above all else you want to remember that being informed offers comfort. If you can add in empathy or a human element, it’ll be that much more helpful and supportive for the person reading. 

When crafting your communications, try these approaches: 

  • Be clear, concise and calm 
  • Use your brand truths and brand promise to guide you 
  • Choose your language carefully 
    • Try to not use too much COVID-19 jargon; and 
    • Be careful to avoid words that create a negative visual in people’s minds like “touching”, “viral”, “infectious”
  • Build confidence by being clear about your plans
  • Be clear about how your customers/clients can support or still engage with your business 
  • If you offer a service to clients, be clear about which services have had disruptions or adaptations, and which can still be accessed (and how) 
  • Be careful with your tone—have tact 
  • Show empathy. Be kind—we’re all people just trying to do our best 

For the past three weeks it’s felt like as quickly as we know what’s happening, something has already changed. And, while you can’t always predict what’s coming next, you can help your customers or clients feel better by providing them with the information they seek.

So, in these uncertain times, first take a deep breath. Remember we’re in this together.