Your company’s challenges are coming from every direction, from employees with families working from home to customers with less time, patience and capital. There’s pressure on every CEO to get their messaging right. Matter of fact, it is an imperative. Get the message right and your customers will remember you as a dependable resource. Strike the wrong tone and your customers could be unforgiving for years to come. COVID-19 is a humanitarian and economic crisis with possibly prolonged impact. As a CEO, your grasp of this situation must be reflected in your communications. It is a time for you to embrace the criticality of the pandemic and recognize the significant work and support that needs to be provided to businesses, communities, the healthcare system and our entire society.
Jennifer Bodner, CEO, Babbit Bodner, a leading communications consultancy and a launchpad2X Core Program Alum is an expert in this arena. She has been working it for years. She joined me to devise these top 5 considerations for you as a CEO when directing communications to your customers during the COVID-19 crisis.
5 Critical considerations for customer-focused communications during COVID-19
- Strike the appropriate tone: Take an assessment of your current and upcoming marketing, communications and social media content. Does anything feel out of touch with the current environment? Take a hard look to make sure that every message is appropriate. This is a challenging time for many. Anxiety levels are high. It’s critical to project the right voice, empathy and tone. It’s still possible to share brand-centric messaging, yet every piece of copy and every image needs to be reevaluated to ensure sensitivity, humility, and concern. No one wants to hear a frivolous or uncaring tone. This is not the time for jokes or sarcasm in any communications. Neither is it the time for price gouging or to breed fear. Your tone as a leader will drive behavior. You’ve heard Bernie say it many times. Don’t miss an opportunity to step up. Depict that you care and have a compelling vision.
- Join the conversation in your sweet spot. Find a sweet spot or niche where you, your team and your sales force have credibility. It’s important that you share a perspective that has value and merit. For example, if you’re in the food business, do you have a unique perspective on packaging or distribution or delivery? Just as financial advisors continue to share their perspective on the future of the markets and money management, you can step into a role that is informative and one that can grow your business. You have an important perspective as a CEO. Representing that you are a confident, caring CEO impacts the value of your company, another launchpad2X lesson. Utilize key communication channels like LinkedIn, serve as a reference for journalists, find other influencers for new and innovative content.
- Maximize virtual opportunities. As human beings, we are desperate for connection even in times of isolation. In the coming weeks, think about your opportunities to bring people together virtually. This is more than just pushing out content. As humans we are hungry to connect. Microsites can be an instrumental tool in providing images, quotes, live feeds and other components of news, announcements, or hosting webinars. Get innovative with social media and communication tools like Slack to offer live chats, virtual panels, speeches, etc. Brainstorm with your team. Pull them into your thinking. You will build a stronger team and offer them a chance to connect more deeply with you.
- Give back in any way you can. All of us will look back when this crisis period has ended and reflect on our experiences. We will be judged on our branding, our communications and what support we gave to our teams and others. Inspirational stories are beginning to emerge. You and your team can do their part. Think about your time, your talents, your resources. United Way has teamed up with a famed ATL artist to give a portion of their proceeds from their new design. The Hawks are setting up mobile grocery marts, Ty Woods, LP2X 2012 is distributing food normally used in her after school programs to those in need. You can get creative with how you help your customers and community.
- Look to the future. The next few weeks will, most likely demand your messaging to be about the crisis, the current state of your company and employees and what you are doing to managing through the crisis. Now is also the time to prepare for your communications and messaging moving forward. It’s time to think about what your communications will look like when we’re on the other side. Consider what the national post-crisis tone may be like. Abundance will be frowned upon. There will be discomfort in big events and close spaces. Consider how your business practices have changed from COVID-19 and how you will share changes with your stakeholders. Loop back to the first consideration focused on tone as you look to communicate post crisis.
Jennifer Bodner is the CEO of Atlanta-based communications’ consultancy Babbit Bodner. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jennbabbit on Twitter.
Always, Play to Win.
Bernie P. Dixon is Founder and Chairman of Launchpad2X, a founder-to-CEO accelerator training program for women entrepreneurs. Find her on LinkedIn.