There’s two parts to this post. The first is some guidance on external communications and remote working in your new situation and the second, at the end, is an offer of help if you need it.
Lots of organisations are in the situation of needing to be able to get messages out more quickly and effectively than usual.
You need to update your messaging now, and again at each stage of this process, or you risk visitors thinking you have closed down permanently or don’t care about them.
There will be no rocket science or complex theory here, just a reminder of some of the tools you have at your disposal.
Tone of voice is incredibly important right now so, when you do make contact with your audience, think carefully about:
- Tone of writing – we’re all adapting to and getting over the shock of our situation, and the British are great at making light of things. But it’s too soon to be breezily talking about the future after this time. It’s really easy to drop a PR clanger right now by sounding either too panicked or like you’re still in denial about the scale of the situation. Ask for help and offer it, in a calm and honest way.
- Colour of text – highlighting in red does stand out, but it comes with other connotations too.
- Weight, size and case of text – I’ve seen businesses send out communications in bold block capitals. Regardless of the actual message, this looks alarming.
- Unnecessary imagery – don’t feel the need to illustrate your post with jaunty stock images of viruses or screenshots from disaster movies while people are panicking (I’ve actually seen that in several mailing list blasts this week!). Equally, don’t be insensitive by using stock images of people out and about and doing things that we aren’t allowed to do right now. Keep things simple, understated and empathetic.
Consider your channels
Different channels have different audiences. Do you need to talk to a specific group of people? Or everyone who’s ever heard of you?
A quick reminder of your channels:
- Website (of course) – great for getting information in front of people who are currently interested in you, or for sending people to a page that you can keep updated with your latest policies.
- Social media – a way of getting information out quickly, and staying in touch with your regulars. It’s not confined to your actual customers and it’s easily shared if you say something inconsiderate (e.g. Wetherspoons and Sports Direct proudly announcing they were still open for business).
- Mailing list – direct access to people’s email inboxes. We are seeing open rates several times higher than usual at the moment, for obvious reasons. You may have more than one audience set up – bear that in mind if you do.
- CRM/SMS – your customer database might have the ability to get short, urgent messages out quickly. If you need to notify a lot of people at once, this gets you a lot of coverage very quickly. This will be very handy once you have an idea of when you’ll be able to start re-opening services from being suspended.
- Phone – people know this is labour intensive, and will be very grateful for the effort you make to contact them individually.
I hope that’s a helpful reminder of your options.
Remote working – the usual rules do not apply
If you need to work with staff or customers remotely, here are some great free tools you can use:
- Zoom – you’ve all heard of this by now – it the best video conference software. Free account limited to 40 mins for group calls.
- Cisco Webex – an alternative to Zoom – they just upped their free tier so you can have unlimited length calls with up to 100 people at once.
- Slack – secure instant messaging for teams (WhatsApp is a reasonable substitute but GDPR is still with us so don’t use it to discuss customer-specific information).
- Loom – a free tool for Google Chrome to record screen capture videos and voiceover to explain things much quicker than in writing.
Everyone will understand if you’re not looking your best right now.
Most of us are at home in our scruffies but if you’re meeting clients online and you need to look professional, consider:
- Logitech C920 webcam – most laptop webcams are pretty poor. This camera is higher resolution and better at adjusting white balance and focus so you look like yourself.
- Get a cheap USB microphone such as the Blue Snowball, or use the hands-free earphones that came with your phone. Try not to use your laptop or tablet’s built in microphone, especially on group calls.
- Raise your camera up to face level – stack it on some books if you need to. Don’t have it pointing up at you from the desk.
- Find a well lit part of your house, with a tidy backdrop. If the backdrop is bright white then your face will appear dark.
- Some desk lamps with bright white LED bulbs go a long way to fixing that. Put them to the sides if you wear glasses.
Support if you need it
While my wife is out doing the real work on the NHS front line, not that much has changed for me. I’m working from home instead of the office, and cracking on with projects for commercial, charity and NHS clients. In other words, I’m here as usual and I want to help.
If we host your website and you haven’t had chance to think about updating your messaging or to plan for the later stages of the outbreak, I’d like to spend some time helping for you for free.
This applies whether you have a care plan or just web hosting.
Things you should already be doing include:
- publishing content about your response to the outbreak
- broadcasting this via your site, social media and mailing lists
- using all relevant channels to keep in touch with your regulars
- considering your options for remote and online interactions
- planning adaptations for your business when lockdowns start to lift but social distancing remains in place
So if you’re struggling to know what to do, let’s talk, and I’ll try to give you a jump-start.
After that, some of the things my most proactive clients are asking me for right now are:
- popup notices throughout a website with current operating status
- banner to a new guidance page with info for clients, to reduce staff phone time answering FAQs
- helping to implement an online diary for booking Zoom calls
- updating Google My Business with revised opening hours
- cancelling Google, Facebook and Instagram advertising campaigns
Remember, lots of that can be done through bundled time that’s included with your Care Plan, so these ideas may not cost you anything either.
If I can help, please email me directly and I’ll call you at my first possible opportunity.