The news on the Coronavirus is like a tsunami for everyone right now. What is it? Who’s at risk? What to do? What not to do? The market volatility spurred by the virus spread and then the Opec-Russia oil dispute isn’t helping things. Next to “Fluid Situation” in the dictionary is this situation.
What do when the situation is fluid and so far-reaching? OVER-COMMUNICATE.
How we communicate is the only thing we can control 100% of the time.
What Does Over-Communicate Mean?
- That means acknowledging that things aren’t normal.
- That means saying something even if it’s “I don’t know what to say.”
- That means telling people when you’ll update them next so they can go on about their day until that time. And then updating people at that time…even it it’s to say “I’ve got no update to share.”
- That means seeking out and providing credible information about the things you’re not expert in. Do not become a spreader of disinformation because you don’t want people to know you don’t know. NO ONE knows everything. No one expects you to know everything.
- That means keep moving forward fully cognizant that things aren’t normal.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago that now is not the time to go silent in your media and marketing plans, now is the time to move forward smarter, more strategically. If you wait to move until this virus is under control, you will be too late. That advice stands.
Your Staff, Partners & Customers Are Nervous
At the same time, your staff is nervous. So are your partners and customers. They get the same or even more of the confusing information that you do. Facebook and Twitter and TikTok can’t quell the flood of disinformation. In many ways, we’ve not felt the demise of the traditional media more acutely than now — everyone as a publisher is great when the information people “publish” is fact-checked from credible sources. It’s not so great when the information is fast-moving, obfuscated or directly contradictory. Another reason to over-communicate with all of your audiences what you do know.
So what are we to do as leaders of divisions, companies, families, small teams, as communicators to large audiences internal and external?
5 Steps to Take In a Fluid Situation
- Take a deep breath. Our job is to set the tone for the people around us. To be as well informed as possible, and to make decisions the best way we can. And to be ready to change your decision if good information indicates a change is needed. Your teams, your clients, your customers, your partners are watching you to see how they should react.
- Control What You Can Control. We can’t control much on a good day! What we can always control are our actions and reactions. If you have a business that requires attendance, do what you can to reduce risk. If you have a business that does not require attendance — or full attendance — send people home to work remotely for a while. Social distancing is the most prudent thing we can do right now according to the CDC. Call the ball at the end of next week on how to proceed. Rinse. Repeat.
- Over-Communicate. Now is not the time to wait until you know everything to say something. Now is the time to regularly and frequently provide updates from the top and check-ins among teams. Tell people what you do know. Tell people what you don’t know. Provide information that you know is vetted and reliable.
- Help people keep moving forward. Your team is made of people from different walks of life, with different personality types, who have their own different situations in their lives, and who deal with the unknown in different ways. Some people will just keep on keepin’ on. Others won’t. We need to provide the communication that helps everyone move forward, even if it is to say “let’s keep going for today, and we’ll reassess tomorrow.”
- Focus on work that you can control. Right now you can’t know that other people or businesses or partners are going to respond or be able to respond to you the way they normally would. So, what can you do to fill the void while we wait for the next phase of the situation one, two, three or four weeks away? Focus on your own content channels. Get ahead of summer plans where it makes sense in preparation. Be helpful to your partners and customers.
Communication is at the heart of everything we do – as product and service providers, leaders, colleagues, partners, or customers. And how we can communicate is about the only thing we can control 100% of the time.
Now’s the time to exercise that ability.