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Business Observer Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2020 2 months ago

Crisis communication strategies come to fore as pandemic rages

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In the midst of a public health and economic disaster like the coronavirus pandemic, messaging takes on added importance.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Earlier this year, Kyle Parks transitioned B2 Communications, a St. Petersburg-based marketing and strategic messaging firm, to an entirely remote, work-from-home workplace. 

“I didn’t predict this, by the way,” he deadpans, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Parks couldn’t have. Nor could any of us. But the coronavirus crisis is a time for businesses to prioritize communication above nearly all else. 

With many companies at reduced operating capacity or a standstill altogether, a lack of clear, coherent, unified messaging can prolong economic agony by sowing confusion among employees and customers. 

“Smart companies are taking each group of people that they care about for their business and figuring out how to communicate with them,” Parks says. “You really need to be specific as you talk about this crisis. With a customer, business partner or somebody like that, say, ‘Let's focus on how we get things done and get through this,’ as opposed to grand statements, like, ‘Oh, it’s all going to be OK.’” 

He adds, “We're all getting flooded with these emails about how businesses are taking steps to stay safe. That’s where you start, of course, but you’ve got to take it beyond that and not just be like, ‘OK, we sent out an email.’ It’s got to go a lot deeper than that as far as talking to people and saying, ‘OK, what is your specific concern? What can we do about that?’” 

Parks cites Armature Works, the event space and public market in Tampa, as an example of a business that practiced good crisis communication as the spreading pandemic began to upend nearly every facet of public life. 

“They said they’re closing for a while but that they were going to continue to pay people during the downtime,” he says. “Good for them that they have the financial ability to do that, but think about how that signifies confidence. Don't just say it's going to be fine, but talk about what steps are being taken.” 

In his blog, Parks shares six pointers on how to communicate well during the COVID-19 crisis:

  1. Think about each of your key audiences and realize one message may not fit all.
  2. Be clear and concise.
  3. Describe your safety processes, with details.
  4. Offer complete information, including timeframe.
  5. Reiterate ways to minimize the risk.
  6. Overcommunicate.

See more details and tips in Parks' post at https://b2communications.com/6-tips-for-covid-19-communications

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