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.

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