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Clear, empathetic, honest. What the media is looking for and how to ensure good communication during the COVID-19 crisis

May 14, 2020
May 14, 2020 Andy

As the head of a business you should understand the importance of communication during this crisis. Many businesses are doing this well but some are making fundamental mistakes and potentially destroying the relationship they have built with their markets over many years.

Here are clear communication guidelines you should follow for your business as you navigate your way through this current crisis.

Good communication – Don’t be clever with language. Whatever you’d like to announce at this time, make it clear and honest. If, for example you have people with COVID-19 and you are giving them sick leave, then say that. You don’t need to say that you are offering all sorts of benefits to your staff. Don’t put unnecessary spin on something that is really quite clear. Trust is key, and trying to communicate that “we have everything under control” is difficult to square with reality, especially when referring to circumstances that can’t possibly be under anybody’s control.

Be open and honest with customer service issues –Customer service communications always should be transparent and authentic. Empathise with the caller, most are seeking customer service not because they want to but because they have to. While your messaging can’t please everyone or fix every problem your communication can and should always show empathy and understanding. Be transparent accommodating and reassuring.

Short, measured and frequent communication – This is more effective now than lengthy, detailed information. Consider putting an FAQ on your site and update it regularly. Things are changing quickly at this time and you need to stay up to date.

What interests the media right now?

Be practical, don’t sell –Use common sense when pitching non-coronavirus-related news and updates. Very few stories will get through now unless they are related to COVID-19. This no time to ‘sell’ a story, a product, or a company; that would be considered as insensitive to the current situation and “tone deaf”. This is a time to support the greater good with stories that inform and add to our national response. The recent story about Brewdog using its distillery to make hand sanitiser is a great example of a business that is helping the cause.

Technology – If your company is technology focused, media stories are mostly focused on the remote worker or people staying at home and self- isolating. Stories on technologies behind making this happen are trending at the moment. Tech journalists want stories that inform on less obvious ways that companies and people might be impacted.
However, don’t be self-serving. Journalists will see through a story that they consider has been generated purely to promote the business.

Consumer – Lifestyle media has in general shifted its focus on current events and stories related to COVID-19, however that does not mean that they are not interested in anything else. Workouts you can do at home, and tips to help others through this are trending. Other topics that remain popular are celebrity news, DIY, gardening, food and drink and summer fashion. Don’t forget also that editors and contributors are seeking content for longer-lead stories.

There are great opportunities to get your business through this crisis with a good communication strategy but  you must do so with sensitivity, empathy and honesty. The same applies to the media. Be aware of what’s going on around you and think how your business can play its part.