Everybody is Talking To You About COVID-19 – Make sure it’s not just talk

By Mary Louise VanNatta

Our lives have been taken and shaken and we’ve consumed more media than ever before.  As we drift back to our work lives, business communication is going to pivot.  Everyone is going to try to convince us that their product or service cares the most, has the best solution, and will help us return to the “way we were.”  This is a chance for you to communicate authentically with your audience.  As consumers ourselves, we need to be wary of messages coming our way.

Chances are every business that you’ve ever visited (or given your email to in hopes of winning a gift card) has posted or sent you something about their pandemic response. Despite these efforts, here’s the reality — no business on Earth is going to say “we don’t care about COVID-19 and we don’t plan to do anything.” Everyone cares and plans to do something. The question then becomes, how do you convince your stakeholders that your COVID-19 response isn’t just talk. It’s one thing to say you care, but it’s another to prove it. The secret is to identify your business’s strengths and clearly connect them to your COVID-19 response.

Know your audience

The first step is to identify the needs of your customers. Your clients may continue to have concerns about personal health. Their biggest concern may be money.  Some just are irritated about life inconvenience. If you show that you understand your customers’ COVID-19 problems, they are more likely to listen to your solutions.

Clearly Identify Your Solution

It’s now time to talk about solutions. For example, if your customers have concerns about their personal health or safety, you need to emphasize your business’s commitment to cleanliness and sanitation. If you offer solutions that aren’t relevant, customers will look elsewhere. 

Make Your Solutions Credible 

You will continue to be in a very crowded message environment.  It may be difficult for consumers to distinguish how your promise is more believable than others.  Customers need to see evidence that backs up your promises. For example, if you promise customers that your business is going above and beyond to clean and sanitize, you need to explain (and show) what that process entails. 

After the quarantine, people will crave the feeling of normalcy. They will want things to be back the way they were; brands will follow with those promises.  Remember we are going through something difficult and in some cases traumatic. We have to remember that as we communicate and consume messages ourselves.

Mary Louise VanNatta, APR, CAE is the CEO of VanNatta Public Relations, a PR, event planning, and consulting firm in Salem, Oregon. PRSalem.com

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