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7 helpful communication tips in times of COVID-19

3-minute read

Effective crisis communication is a crucial element of business, especially when managing remote teams. Here are 7 tips to help you communicate during COVID-19.

Download our action plan to help you respond and adapt to the current crisis (PDF 641KB).

Key take-outs
  • Ongoing communication is the key to managing teams and leading your business through the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when working remotely
  • Focus on communicating with ‘the key three’: your team, your suppliers and your customers
  • Be transparent, concise and consistent to stop the spread of misinformation, rumours and panic
  • Share your vision for the future of your business to encourage hope and optimism

Whether you’re managing a small team or running a larger operation, your stakeholders are likely looking to you to steady the ship during the COVID-19 crisis. Transparent, concise and consistent communication can help you build trust and identify a pathway through the pandemic.

Communication in times of crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work and live. Your team may be feeling uncertain about their future, your suppliers may be struggling to fulfil their commitments to you, and your customers and clients may be questioning whether you’re still there for them. 

 

Richard Harmer, CEO of The Holos Group, says steering your business through the pandemic depends largely on how you communicate. 

 

“The real key to leadership is being in constant conversation and constantly co-creating the environments within which we will all flourish. It’s about having a dialogue with the market, with competitors, with the customer, with the future.” 

Whether you’re managing small teams, dealing with your suppliers or reassuring your customers, the crisis communication skills you may need to call on are essentially the same. Here are seven tips to help you communicate effectively during the pandemic, whether you’re working remotely or not.

1. Be proactive

Your team, suppliers and customers all want to hear from you. Silence from the boss is likely to increase uncertainty, and that’s when misinformation, rumours and panic may start setting in. Provide regular updates to all your stakeholders — internal and external — and let them in on what you’re thinking.   

2. Be honest

No one expects you to have all the answers, however, they will value honesty. Transparency means laying your cards on the table and not hiding anything from your team, suppliers and customers. We all understand the difficulty of the current situation, so denying or excessively sugar-coating the facts is likely to come off as inauthentic.  

3. Be concise

Simplicity should be central to any communications strategy. Keep your message to all three stakeholder groups clear and, where possible, set out simple actions you would like people to follow. Mixed messages or overly complex directives can breed confusion.  

4. Be consistent

Consistency in your messaging can help build trust. Though you may need to show flexibility as the pandemic and economic conditions evolve, try to remain consistent in your tone, the frequency of your updates and the communication channels you use.  

5. Be empathetic

Remember that people are stressed. Your employees may be concerned they will lose their jobs and your suppliers might be worried they’ll lose your business. Moreover, your customers could be uncertain about how to continue to safely engage with you, so try not to neglect people’s emotional needs.   

6. Be available

Your stakeholders probably have questions and concerns, so make yourself as available and approachable as you can be. Regular video conferences may help. Make space for people to ask questions and share concerns. Likewise, you should also aim to be as responsive as possible to your suppliers and visible to your customers.   

7. Be hopeful

Times are tough right now, but it will get better. Share your vision for the future of your business and be clear with all your stakeholders about how you’re planning to get there. In the process, be as specific as you can to help your people see the path forward and the role they need to play. 

 

As the leader of your business, people look to you for stability in the current storm. This is your opportunity to build trust with your team, suppliers and customers. Use this time to communicate how you plan to operate through the pandemic, identify where you need support from your team and suppliers, and set the tone for the future of your business in the post-COVID era.


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Things you should know

This information does not take into account your personal circumstances and is general. It is an overview only and should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon. Consider obtaining personalised advice from a professional financial adviser and your accountant before making any financial decisions in relation to the matters discussed in this article, including when considering tax and finance options for your business.