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Messaging, content and how to communicate effectively in challenging times – internally and externally

29 May 2020

The current situation is throwing the spotlight on how businesses communicate. The wrong tone, or a message communicated at the wrong time, can cause serious damage to a business’s reputation. Conversely, effective communication is a key component in protecting and strengthening your brand, and in keeping staff and customers engaged through the Coronavirus crisis period and beyond.

And while some organisations may wish to reduce or close off their communications, a lack of visibility and a reduced profile – especially over a sustained period of time – can have serious effects on a business’s ability to attract new customers.

In addition, the altered economic landscape may have led your business to changing the products and services it offers, or you may need to diversify into new markets. This blog will guide you through tuning your communications to a new business environment and will provide advice on what steps to take to ensure you keep engaging with your customers, stakeholders, prospects and staff.

We delivered this content as a webinar too – If you would like a copy of the Messaging, content and how to communicate effectively in challenging times – internally and externally presentation, please email us and we will send a copy to you.

Tip #1 – Create a PR strategy. Build your communications on solid foundations.

A PR strategy is vital to keeping your business at the forefront of customers’ and prospects’ minds. And over this challenging period, it’s even more important to remain visible to the world as customers and prospects need to have confidence that you are operational and are available to help them.

Whilst PR can generate interest around a one-time event or story, if done strategically and consistently, it can also create and sustain brand awareness. Uncertainty can be damaging: if your business is dealing with difficult circumstances, having a good public relations strategy is essential.

What can you do?

  • Define your objectives – all PR campaigns need a clear goal, and this should align to your overall marketing strategy.
  • Analyse your target audience/s. Where do they get their news? What industry magazines do they read? Which trade publications and journalists are prominent in their sector?
  • Create an up to date media list which details key industry publications that are relevant to your business, sector, products and services.
  • Tie in milestones in your business with your strategy, such as new product launches and diversification into new markets.
  • Create a content plan based on forward features your target publications will be covering over the next 6-12 months, so you can pitch content and ideas for inclusion in these.
  • Define what you want to achieve from your PR activities, set KPIs and continually evaluate the success of your efforts.

Tip #2 – Reshape your messaging. Reflect the way you’ve adapted.

Whilst your core proposition may not have changed, many businesses have had to adjust to a difficult market landscape and reshape their propositions slightly. They may have entered new markets, diversified their offering to reach a wider audience or adapted their ways of working and/or their processes.

What your customers may need now or in the short term might differ to what they needed earlier this year… and the demand for certain products may have changed. So, you need to re-shape your messaging to reflect this and address these changes.

What can you do?

Review your core messaging to ensure it reflects your current operations and update this on all platforms and channels.

  • Provide your staff with a communications toolkit – this will ensure your updated messaging is used consistently and everybody is ‘reading from the same page’.
  • Develop a suite of sales content which can be used during this challenging time.
  • Find a careful balance in your messaging, consider what your audience needs from you at the moment.
  • It is important to remember each audience may need its own messaging!

Tip #3 – Get your tone of voice right. Read the room!

Your tone of voice reflects your brand and approach. It can portray your expertise, values and the personality of your business. Does your company have a set tone of voice and is it consistently used across the business? Do you need to change this language to accommodate the current climate?

Your tone of voice should reflect how your audience as well as the wider market are feeling. Now more than ever, your tone and message need to be correct and carefully considered. Whatever changes you make, make sure they are consistently used across all of your marketing channels and are communicated internally.

What can you do?

  • Consider what you want your tone of voice to reflect about your brand.
  • Conduct research – understanding your audience and what your clients expect from you at this time will help to shape your tone of voice.
  • Consider your language. Do you use slang or technical jargon? Are you formal or relaxed? Do you require or omit the use of certain words or descriptions? Although this may not change due to the current landscape, it may just be a good time to reflect.
  • Create a tone of voice guide for your staff so that what you say internally reflects your external communications.
  • Ensure your tone of voice is consistent across all channels and verbal communications.

Tip# 4 – Choose the right communications channels. Get the best ROI for your efforts.

The marketing channels you use must be driven by your marketing strategy and help meet your overarching marketing objectives. Currently, you may need to shift your emphasis on certain channels, for example towards digital and internal communications rather than events and conferences.

It’s important you consider the content that goes out on these channels too, to ensure you engage with your audience effectively, in the most appropriate way and at the right time. Sticking to what worked before and not making these crucial changes can drain your budget and resource – we are all working under different circumstances.

What can you do?

  • Evaluate which channels are available to you at this time – i.e. digital can reach a vast audience, however some conferences and expos may have been postponed or moved to an online format.
  • It’s a good time to analyse the success of all your channels – which one is generating the best results, and which will be more appropriate under the current restrictions to business?
  • Consider your budget and resource – ensure your chosen channels are practical, affordable and sustainable.
  • Conduct market research and speak to your customers – find out which channels your target audience and competitors are currently using and adapt your plan towards them.
  • Constantly monitor and evaluate your channels to look at trends – if they are not working for you right now, change or improve them.

Tip #5 – Engage with the media. Keep visible and raise your profile.

It’s vitally important to remain visible to the world – and your target trade media outlets still have online and print editorial to publish. Disseminating good news, or building credibility by creating expert advice articles, is now more important now than ever. But the tone must be right and the message relevant.

Regional, national and trade press are still active and are looking for interesting content for their readers. Find out what your target industry and regional publications are covering and think about how you can respond to their editorial needs.

What can you do?

  • Analyse the news coming out of your business to identify what is relevant during this time.
  • Strengthen your connections with journalists – reach out to them to understand what their focus is, but also use the time to educate them on your business!
  • Identify your key spokespeople – who are the experts in your business and what insights can they share? Tell journalists what your business can talk about authoritatively: they may call upon you for comment or editorial in the future.
  • Prepare/refresh your PR tools such as your media database, press release templates and media pack information.
  • Review forward feature and comment opportunities with your target industry publications and pitch in your expertise – you could be preparing for content for the future.

Tip #6 – Use social media effectively. Extend your company’s reach.

Your digital presence is now fundamental. Sharing relevant and interesting content can create engagement and awareness of your business and prompt your target audience to find out more about your business and interact with you. Ensure the right information about your company is visible and provide engaging information which creates interest.

Don’t forget that LinkedIn is considered an important tool in sales development and recruitment, as well as marketing, so ensure your HR, sales and business development teams are on LinkedIn, are trained in how to use it and have the right content to share.

What can you do?

  • Understand your social media channels – you should consider what people expect from them, the purpose of each platform and what content people engage with most.
  • Do your research – do you know which hashtags to use to reach your target audiences? Does your target audience use specific LinkedIn groups?
  • Be visual – photographs, videos, animations and infographics enhance your posts and communicate your message in a quick and visual way.
  • React to and comment on news from your industry.
  • Have a social media plan in place and ensure your tone of voice and messaging is in line with any changes made to reflect the current business climate.

Tip #7 – Strengthen your internal communications. Keep your staff informed and engaged.

Internal communication is key to keeping employees engaged as they work from home or across multiple locations. With many staff working from home, it is important that they still feel connected to both each other and the business.

We are working in an ever-changing environment and employees need to be kept up to date with the latest news and business practices. Two-way communication is critical in gaining feedback from employees, ensuring employee wellbeing and maintaining staff morale during these challenging times.

What can you do?

  • Ensure you have the right tools in place, for example utilising digital platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
  • Support your team by sharing guides, tips and best practice documents on new ways of working and wellbeing.
  • Implement regular internal e-newsletters and update your intranet regularly.
  • Organise virtual team building/social activities to keep the team connected.
  • Take the time to speak to your team and schedule regular check-ins.
  • Ask for their feedback and evolve your internal communications to fit the ever- changing landscape.

Tip #8 – Share your knowledge. Participate and contribute.

Knowledge and expertise are important strategic assets in your business – internally and externally – so use them.  Becoming an active participant in your industry and raising its overall profile can mark your business out as a leader and pioneer.

And remember, businesses choose you for your expertise and real-world experience, so promote this: it can be a highly effective way in which to engage with your audience. Expertise and experience are the best sales tools your business has!

What can you do?

  • Establish the areas of expertise in your business and identify your key spokespeople.
  • Create marketing campaigns around your expertise and share your knowledge to increase interest and demand.
  • Share your knowledge – produce downloadable gated content for your website and provide editorial, advice articles and blogs to industry magazines, forums and networks.
  • Maximise on your content – adapt it for different channels to increase the impact, look at how content can be shared more widely and repurpose it.

Tip #9 – Navigate through challenging situations. Keep communications focused in a crisis.

The Coronavirus pandemic is creating business crises in many industries and is forcing unforeseen changes on some organisations.

How and what you communicate is therefore critical is your business is having to make difficult decisions or deal with a crisis situation. For any crisis communication it is important to consider all the facts and perspectives before you communicate and reach out internally and externally.

What can you do?

  • Create a set of prepared answers to any anticipated questions/press queries.
  • Engage key stakeholders in the communications process.
  • Consider your spokesperson carefully and brief them appropriately.
  • Consider your message from the recipient’s point of view.
  • Create supporting resources – provide your employees with key facts and create a public information point.
  • Always be truthful – honesty really is the best policy.

Tip #10 – Communicate through industry networks. Reach the decision makers.

Connecting and communicating through your industry networks can have huge advantages for your business, especially in the current economic environment. As well as connecting directly with potential customers and partners, you can keep your profile at the forefront by utilising their communications channels.

Take the time to connect with members – introduce your businesses, exchange ideas, share experiences and provide advice and most of all communicate with them directly and reach the real decision makers.

What can you do?

  • Identify the communications channels each network offers and utilise them – share your news, advice, event details and content.
  • Can you provide an advice article or host an event which would benefit your fellow members?
  • For more personal communication, ask your network contact to introduce you to fellow members and decision makers.
  • Speak to your network contact to identify communication opportunities – they understand their members and what support they need.

Moving forward…

Above all, this is a good time to forward plan and get back to basics. Take a step back, re-evaluate your communications and PR approaches, plan out new ways of increasing your profile and use the time to research your channels so that your efforts are highly targeted.

If you would like to assess your current marketing position, from strategy to delivery, why not try our free online marketing diagnostic tool Snapshot360? Complete our online assessment and within minutes you’ll receive a 360 snapshot report which scores all areas of your marketing. Click here to take the test.

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