Erie Chamber Blog
Monday April 6, 2020 

Post contributed by Peter Panepento, Turn Two Communications

One of the first rules of crisis communications is to communicate regularly.

But what happens when the crisis is all-consuming and the amount of messaging about it is simply too much for most of us to bear?

That’s the challenge most of us are facing with COVID-19.

My inbox is clogged with Coronavirus-related messages from seemingly every company, charity, consultant, and political group I’ve ever associated with (and some I’ve never heard of).  A handful of them are incredibly relevant to me – messages about canceled concerts, what to do if I have to take my dog to the vet, and how my local community foundation is responding to those in need in my city.

But too many of them are just noise.

Personally, I don’t need to see any more “A message from our CEO …” notes talking about their company’s commitment to my safety and their employees. Redundancy is a real problem – and too many messages are no longer relevant or necessary.

Now is the time to pivot into the next phase of your COVID-19 communications strategy. You shouldn’t stop communicating, but you do need to be thoughtful about what you’re saying.

Here are a few questions you should ask to help you avoid wasting time with unwanted or unnecessary messages:

Do they really need to know this?

Before you send an email, post to social media, or pitch a story to your favorite reporter, ask whether what you’re about to share is really of interest.

If you’re canceling an event, changing an important policy, extending a deadline, or announcing something that is directly relevant to your key audiences, the answer is yes.

If you’re merely reaffirming your commitment to safety or encouraging people to buy a non-necessary product, you’re not really adding much to the conversation. There are exceptions, for sure, depending on your organization’s focus and activities. 

But, for most, save your powder for what’s important. Your audiences will appreciate it – and they’ll be more likely to pay attention when you actually have something important to say.

What’s the best way to get the message out?

Not every message needs to be sent to your entire email list or posted to your Facebook page.

Some – like how to interact with your employees while they are working from home or what to do if they have a question – are more relevant if they are simply displayed in a prominent, easy-to-find page on your website. If people have a question, they’re more likely to go to your webpage than scroll through your Twitter feed or their email inbox. 

That said, take the time to provide answers to as many questions as possible on your website. And do it now.

If you haven’t already, create a COVID-19 page that includes key information and an extensive FAQ about anything that you think people will want to know. Make it easy for folks to find what they need by making sure you’re using the right tool for the job.

Who needs to hear this?

There might be a small portion of your audience that cares A LOT about what you have to say right now – or about a specific announcement. In those cases, find ways to target that small group, if you can, and avoid sharing it with those who don’t.

If I haven’t purchased your product in the past few years or flown your airline, I might not need that message about shipping delays or reduced flight schedules. But those who have been active recently are likely to be more interested.

One caution: Make sure your messaging is as consistent as possible in your communications with specific segments. You risk losing credibility if someone in your audience sees messages that are starkly different.

Have I struck the right tone?

If you do have something important to share, be careful to make sure your message carries the right tone. This is always important – but it’s especially so right now.

To achieve this, keep up with the latest news and the range of opinions about the crisis. People, obviously, are very tuned into this crisis, and your messages need to reflect the evolving moments that we are in.  

Are my messages connecting?

Finally, pay attention to what your data is telling you.

If people are opening certain emails at a high rate – and ignoring or unsubscribing from others – see if you can find a pattern. It’s quite likely that you should focus on topics that resonate and stop wasting time and energy on others that might be unnecessary or out of touch. The same is true for traffic to certain pages on your website or engagement on your social posts.

Listen to what your audience is telling you. It might help you avoid driving them away during an important time.

Peter Panepento is the Philanthropic Practice Leader for Turn Two Communications.

Monday April 20, 2020 

Submitted by Cathy Szymanski, Szymanski Consulting

Will it be the new norm?

Flexible work setups have often been the subject of debate — employees want the option to work away from the office at least some of the time, but many businesses value well-founded methods and processes. Will the world’s largest work from home experiment change that?

Enforced flexibility

A pandemic is one of the most socially, economically, and politically disruptive events that could ever happen. Infections and fatalities constantly increase, business operations are shut down, and scientists’ race against time to find a cure.

Companies lucky enough to remain operational still face a significant challenge: maintaining business continuity. For most, the simplest way to achieve this is by moving their business resources online and adopting an effective remote work strategy.

With resilience and careful decision-making — as well as the right tools and processes — you might just find your employees more productive, less stressed out by work, and expressive as ever.

A wealth of benefits

Remote work offers several benefits for both employees and employers. In addition to saving time and eradicating commute-related stress, remote work can improve employee productivity. A few studies reveal that the freedom to create a comfortable environment and schedule encourages employees to perform at their best.

At the same time, employers benefit from reduced overhead expenses while also having access to a wider pool of applicants. Because workplace flexibility is among the top considerations of many young job seekers, remote work arrangements would be right up their alley.

Employers can also hire outside of reasonable commuting distance, as employees will not have to report to the office as frequently, if not at all. What has more, mandatory daily attendance is going out of fashion — more businesses are now prioritizing performance over hours clocked in. Many prefer focusing on the quality of outputs rather than just keeping people in the office from 9 to 5.

Businesses reap great rewards for recognizing performance instead of just presence. This approach makes for more engaged, efficient, and satisfied employees, consequently creating a healthy and progressive company culture.

Encouraging development

Many businesses believe that a traditional office setup helps bring about better relationships and collaborations. However, data actually points out that interpersonal behavior and communication — not solely proximity — are the key drivers of trust and teamwork.

Traditional work arrangements also make it easier for managers to look after their employees — it’s easy to see who is and isn’t at their workstation during office hours. However, mandating work hours and location makes sense only for time-sensitive and location-dependent jobs like retail, manual labor, and healthcare, where employees need to be physically present.

Meanwhile, for knowledge workers whose jobs involve non-routine problem solving, an office cube isn’t always the most conducive environment for devising solutions and innovations. Sometimes, the best and most unique ideas come from exposure to the surroundings, people, and events outside the confines of an office.

Embracing change

Being forced to adopt a work from home policy in the face of a global crisis is not an ideal circumstance to test the waters. Full-time remote work does not and won’t work for all businesses. But this should not stop you from accomplishing projects and sustaining productivity and efficiency. Leverage your resources to help you weather the storm and emerge stronger than before.

Though we have yet to see if remote work is here to stay, it’s currently a non-negotiable aspect of the corporate setup, and we should learn how to make the most out of it.

Having a strong strategy in place and the right tools and equipment are crucial to ensure effective communication, collaboration, and management. Our experts can help you configure the perfect remote working setup for your business. Call us today.

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