Woman on a video call; communication via distance

Communicating with empathy during COVID and other crises

Take yourself back to early 2020 and you’ll probably remember just about everyone – from government authorities to local businesses – talking about things like the ‘new normal’ and being ‘in this together’. (What a time that was, huh?)

Two years on and while circumstances have changed in many ways, there’s one key aspect that’s largely remained the same: Uncertainty. It’s no surprise that Aussies are feeling the loom of uncertainty as cases rise higher than ever before.

For businesses, it’s important to switch gears when it comes to communicating with your audience. Think about how your customers, and your community are feeling, and how that may affect the way they perceive your messaging.

As an example, customers may feel hesitant to enter brick-and-mortar stores if they are unsure of your COVID-safe procedures. You can mitigate some of this uncertainty by implementing a clear and consistent COVID safe plan that can be viewed at every point of customer contact (think social media posts, in email or text marketing, and signage inside your premises.) Share information about what are you doing to protect your customers and your employees.

You’ll also want to regularly review your upcoming pre-scheduled communications and ensure they’re still consistent with your messaging.

A surge in COVID cases typically also comes with delays along the supply chain. While it can be frustrating, you might be surprised to find that a good portion of your audience will be understanding as long as you keep them in the loop about the availability of certain products and services. Letting your audience know about potential delays ahead of time can help set realistic expectations.

On the topic of keeping your customers in the loop, it’s also important to consider what might be too much information. Often in times of crisis, the general public is already taking in so much inconsistent, rapidly-changing information. You don’t necessarily want to be part of that. 

Instead, consider whether the message you’re sending out brings value to your audience. It’s worthwhile avoiding excessive advertising focused on making sales. Value can come in the form offering a sense of normalcy to an audience who might be fatigued or overloaded from hearing negative, serious news.

Remember that communication doesn’t have to be one-sided. Don’t be afraid to ask your audience how they’re going. Build a sense of community and let people know they are valued.

You may even want to consider how you can give back to the community. The pandemic has been tough on everyone, and while your business might not necessarily have funds for a larger-scale charity initiative, there are other ways to give back and encourage others to do so as well.

If you own a café for example, creating a pay-it-forward scheme where customers can pre-pay for another customer’s coffee is a small gesture that can bring everyone a little sense of solidarity.

Want to learn more about crisis-sensitive PR strategies? Check out how we hosted a successful COVID-safe event HERE or contact our team for more information.

AUTHOR: Nicole Odviar.

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