10 Communication Tips for Navigating the Covid-19 Crisis

When the world is upside down, your voice is your superpower. Here's 10 tips for navigating a crisis.
April 28, 2020
Communicating through a crisis is essential for all businesses is

You may be tired of hearing the word “crisis.”  I am, too. 

Knowing how to communicate and navigate a crisis can mean the difference between your business prospering or perishing.

Hopefully, you are not seriously impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.  Times like these compel us to think more about preparedness and to take inventory of what we need to come out whole—or better—on the other side. Knowing these communication tips for navigating a crisis can help.

Pandemics aside, there are many other types of events that can pose danger to the health of your business and your own. A fire in your building.  A case of food poisoning in your restaurant.  One of your delivery trucks hits a pedestrian.  Your customer database has been hacked.  A hurricane or flood ravages your community.  Here are my communication tips for navigating a crisis.  

But first: what is a crisis? 

It is a time of intense disruption and danger when decisions must be made to recover or perish. Crises come in two types:  a. Things that are in your control; that is, you had something to do with it. b. Things that are not in your control; that is, a natural disaster or global pandemic.

Why should you care?

Crises like the COVID-19 outbreak unleash a tidal wave of disruption that could impact nearly every aspect of daily life.  As a business owner and face of your organization, you will have crucial conversations with employees, partners, suppliers, investors, news media and other stakeholders.  How you communicate during a crisis may determine whether your business prospers or suffers.

You have two chances to make a good impression: first time you meet someone; and when something goes wrong.  Here’s what you need to do when something goes wrong:

1.  Act quickly.  Silence can be interpreted as indifference.  Even if events are still unfolding, acknowledge them and offer updates as they become available.

2.  Tell your own story.  Or critics and competitors will attack and tell their own version of your story.  Take control of your narrative.

3.  Communicate often and consistently. You will not get through to everyone the first time.  Messages repeated 7+ times are more easily remembered. Frequency shows you’re on task.

4.  Show you care. Demonstrate authentic empathy: “We are all in this together.” Personalized communication, direct messages, phone calls, help build social equity.   

5.  Make it about them.  It’s not about you. It is about what your customers need from you today. During challenging times, people’s physiological and safety needs are heightened.  Tell them how you can help them.  

6. Stop selling, start solving problems. Capitalizing on a crisis could damage your reputation. Review your paid and organic media adjust your message in line with the moment.

7. Stay in your lane.  Don’t comment on things you know nothing about.  Talk about what you know. If you are baker, don’t comment on how the shoemaker is responding to the crisis.  

8.  Get to the point.  Cluttered messages raise suspicion you are hiding something. Patience runs thin when people are scared.  Tell them what they need to know concisely.

9.  Keep it simple.  Use language everyone can understand.  Avoid industry jargon and legalese.  Tell it to them straight.   

10.  Tell the truth.  Always.  And, if you do not know the answer, do not fake it.  It is OK to say you do not know but will find out the answer.  

Bonus tip:  If you don’t’ gain the TRUST of the people that matter, your business will suffer or fail.

This is the fourth in my Crisis Conversations Series: useful articles to help you navigate the coronavirus pandemic and manage critical conversations during turbulent times.


Additional resources on navigating a crisis:

Public Relations Society of America: https://www.prsa.org/about/crisis-communications-resources

International Association of Business Communicators: https://www.iabc.com/covid-19-resources/

Associated Press–How to write about the novel coronavirus: https://www.apstylebook.com/topical_most_recent  

Visit rosemaryravinal.com for more useful information on public speaking, presentation skills, crisis and media relations.

Rosemary Ravinal

I teach business leaders how to shine on video calls and have more productive virtual engagement. As Founder/Chief Trainer at RMR Communications Consulting, I also help executives master the art of public speaking, inspiring presentations, and authoritative media interviews online and in person. My company’s services are available in English and Spanish in South Florida and elsewhere.

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Let me help you speak, engage, and persuade like a pro in person and online in English and Spanish.

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Your success in the new normal of work depends on how well you navigate virtual and in-person communication.

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