Organizations are doing an excellent job getting the word out about cancellations in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. For many, it is time to shift into communicating about what happens now. As you hunker down to weather a potentially protracted crisis, keep in mind that the hunger for communication grows. Uncertainty takes a toll on employee morale, productivity and the bottom line.
Here’s what you can do:
Get your news out there first. We all tend to retain what we hear first and too often we misremember speculation as truth. Dislodging misinformation is hard. Share your leave policy with employees. Contact customers and let them know how to conduct business with you. Emails, website banners, phone calls, text messages and even a sign on the front door can be powerfully reassuring.
Do not repeat misinformation, even to refute it. A rumor repeated is a rumor given power. Instead, share what you know to be true and credit a reliable source.
Mix frankness with empathy. Lead with the straight news. And especially when the news is bad, share it with compassion and humility. This outbreak is personal. Acknowledge the disruption and challenge.
Communicate often. Employees need to hear from you more often when they are anxious and isolated, even if there is no new news. Repeat what you know, what you are doing, and how you’re preparing for what might happen.
Be predictable. We can project reliability and a sense of control by sharing updates on a regular cadence shared in a way that customers and employees can count on. A newsy email every Wednesday, daily updates on your website, Q&A time on your standing staff agenda. Predictability bolsters trust and calm.