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Entrepreneurs: Your Communications Strategy Could Make or Break your Business Right Now

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a communications challenge most small business don't anticipate

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health, political and economic crisis. You’ve seen it all over the news and your inbox is probably full of emails from any place you’ve ever given your email address to explaining how that organization is managing the issue. 

Whether you’re running a small business with a staff of one (you) or a multinational corporation that employs more than a million workers and serves people around the world, communicating with your clients about what you are doing in response to COVID-19 can say a lot about your brand. 

Principally, your communications response to COVID-19 will show your clients how transparent you’re willing to be with them as well as how responsible or thoughtful you are in handling crises. Explaining to your clients what you’re doing is just as important as keeping your staff in the loop.

The last thing you want to do is not communicate at all – that would leave your clients confused and could even indicate to them that you aren’t being responsible. You run the risk at losing consumer confidence. 

Isn’t it too late at this point to tell clients what I’m doing? 

Nope. 

So how do I go about contacting clients regarding COVID-19? 

Think about the best mediums to reach your clients. 

Is it email? Twitter? Instagram? Facebook? Text? Phone call?

Consider how you have contacted them in the past and where they were most responsive. 

The medium(s) to best contact your clients will dictate how you go about constructing the text of your response. 

Look at what you’re doing right now in response to COVID-19.

Are you scaling down operations? Are you closing all together (hopefully you’ve already notified clients about that)? 

Think about what would have the most immediate impact on your clients and focus your response on that. 

You’ll also want to let them know what your employees are doing if appropriate. For example, if employees have been advised to work from home and hold meetings digitally, let your clients know. If your employees are encouraging card or contactless payments instead of cash, let your clients know. If you’re limiting the amount of people allowed in your space at a time, let your clients know. 

Consider what is related to your business that might have clients most concerned. 

If your business is at all related to food services, clients will likely want to know what you’re doing from a sanitary perspective. If your business delivers products, people will want to know how you plan to avoid possible transmission between clients and delivery staff. If you work on cars, customers will want to know what precautions you might take to make sure clients’ vehicles aren’t mistakenly contaminated.    

Anticipate concerns clients might have and make sure to address those concerns in your communications to them.

Research what your competitors and companies of similar size and structure in other industries have said. 

What type of language are they using? What key points are they covering in their communications? How else are they rolling it out? Have they contacted news sites or stations? Are they posting videos? Is there anything untraditional or interesting they might be doing? 

Take a look at what other, comparable companies have said about COVID-19 to help you think through what you might be missing in your notes of what you want to say so far. Look at what mediums they’ve used to communicate with their audiences and how they’re approaching the notifications.

Create the communications materials. 

At this point, you should know: 

  • Which medium(s) you’ll use to contact clients. 
  • What you’re already doing in response to COVID-19. 
  • Which issues clients would be most concerned about. 
  • What competitors have said and done publicly regarding their response to COVID-19.

Now that you’re informed enough, it’s time to start outlining what you want to say to clients about your response to COVID-19. You should select three to five key points that you want to hit and they should definitely cover how COVID-19 is impacting your business, if that impact will affect how you service your clients and what you are doing to mitigate any potential risks. You should end your communication by directing clients to the CDC’s website for guidance on COVID-19 itself and letting them know that they can contact you directly if they have questions about how your company is responding to COVID-19. 

Entrepreneurs know better than anyone that the confidence of clients is instrumental to business success and maintaining transparent, consistent and honest communication with them is how you keep their trust. 

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