By Lori Jones, President & CEO of Avocet Communications
Most of us have seen the Lead Boldly campaign and have engaged with it either directly or indirectly through friends or our social feeds. As I proudly began utilizing the mantra, I realized that there was so much more at stake during the COVID-19 outbreak than our businesses.
How will it impact my children? Will they continue to learn at the same trajectory? (I am not good at trigonometry!) They will miss their friends. Cancellation of prom and graduation is a distinct possibility, My next thought: how would this impact my business? My ability to meet my daily leadership and solution delivery? How will it impact my employees? How will it impact our customers who have become dear friends?
And, then a business advisor shared Joshua 1: 7-9 with me. I won’t quote the entire passage, but the essence struck me, and regardless of faith, I think it rings true: “Be strong and very courageous… Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” And, so I shall.
My hope is that these unprecedented times will create stronger families, stronger work teams, stronger marriages. And, just maybe, the outcome will be more innovation, understanding, respect, and more love.
I made the decision that I would implement three parallel paths of crisis management, one for our clients, one for my team, and one for my family. In all cases, our crisis management mantra “Straight Talk, Reassurance, and Consistency” has been implemented.
Now is the time to lean deeply into your values and assure your audiences through walking the walk and talking the talk. And, it is the time to make sure that all of your communication messages whether it be through social media, customer or internal video, email, or television are in line with those values.
Telling people like it is is critical at this time. This applies to both your internal and external audiences, and to topics surrounding financial health, moral obligation, and social responsibility.
- Be decisive and provide exact details about what you are doing to mitigate the situation.
- Acknowledge the personal and emotional, NOT just the business-side of what your employees and customers might be going through.
- Time stamp each and every piece of communication. With COVID-19 constantly changing our social landscape, what you stated on Monday could be completely outdated 24-hours later.
Family straight talk is a mantra that my husband and I have always instilled with our children. Remember that it is a two-way street. Expect straight talk back from your children, team, and customers.
Teams and customers look to leadership for reassurance during times like these. If leadership shuts down the brand is at risk. False rumors and disinformation begin to spread, and your reputation is in peril. Proactively taking control of the narrative, honestly and with compassion, is vitally important.
- Think about who is involved (internal teams, customers, business partners) and what their specifics concern might be. How do you reassure them and how do you let them know that you are the right person to help them get through this?
- Express sincere and genuine care for everyone involved. Share the EXACT steps that you are taking to help out in the situation.
Communicating with our little ones is no different. They need to see mom and dad on the same page, and they need reassurance along the way.
This is a time when more communication is better. Everything is moving so quickly around us that something that you stated two days ago, could in fact change. Use language such as, “Given the facts that we currently have available,” so that you aren’t pigeon-holed with a change and that trust is gained.
Thinking on all your diverse audiences, ask yourself what is the best channel of communication? Answers might be:
- Set up a private Facebook page for furloughed employees.
- Communicate to customers via social media, email, and one-on-one calls.
- Have virtual town halls with current team members.
- Pick up the phone and call your business partners.
- Deliver key messages through video.
I laughed out loud drawing the parallel to home. There is SO MUCH communication now. In between each meeting, each call, each email, we are talking, communicating, reassuring, loving. It is no different in our virtual workplace.
There are many things in the world that are hard to understand and COVID-19 is one of them. I do know that communication is key at this stage and it is expressed in many ways. I see chalk art drawings on driveways that talk about being kind. The memes that have crossed our desks are humorous and reassuring. People are hanging up Christmas lights to show support for our first responders. Straight talk, reassurance, and consistency in communication is helping to drive this. Through this we will build up community ties, tighten client relationships, build stronger teams, strengthen family interplay, and love more deeply.
Lori Jones, president and CEO of Avocet Communications, brings top retail, consumer, and business-to-business branding expertise to all aspects of integrated marketing. Her experience with Fortune 500 brands, middle-market challenger brands, and entrepreneurial startups have made her an in-demand speaker at industry sales and marketing conferences. Her top-rated Integrate & Ignite podcast is listened to by CEOs, CMOs, and innovators all over the world. Founded in 1980 and consistently honored as one of Colorado’s leading marketing agencies, Avocet Communications has earned a national reputation for helping its clients increase customer count through integrated marketing communications solutions.
You can reach Lori via twitter @LoriJones or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org