Navigating Coronavirus: Considering Four Elements of Communication During a Time of Uncertainty

Navigating Coronavirus: Considering Four Elements of Communication During a Time of Uncertainty

Written By: Amy Littleton

The spread of the novel coronavirus has thrust us into unprecedented times. Many communicators are cautious, and rightly so. In this environment, we must make sound choices to drive impact and minimize risk. The key is to pay careful attention to four elements of communication: relevancy, context, tone and timing.

First, relevancy. Some content, when juxtaposed with the backdrop of coronavirus, is irrelevant. For example, one of our clients produced an amazing piece of thought leadership about go-to-market strategy. Right now, however, companies are trying to protect their businesses during a crisis, versus considering new thinking on going-to-market. Because of the issue of relevancy, we advised the client to delay launch until a time when the target audience will be more receptive.

Second, context. Despite the fact that coronavirus is currently consuming the airwaves, there are other issues and topics that should be given attention. For example, we are entering flood and hurricane season. These things will come despite the coronavirus, and businesses and consumers must be prepared. Communication in this context would be appropriate to add to the conversation during this time. While coronavirus is the main topic of the day, there is room for other news. So long as it has context.

Third, tone. The coronavirus situation is not a laughing matter, and companies should refrain from making light of it. There will come a time when levity will be sorely needed. But for now, don’t be the one to deliver misplaced witticism. Communication that is seen as flippant will damage a brand. Stick to educational and useful content, delivered in a factual and respectful tone.

Fourth, timing. Companies can get panned for being insensitive and opportunistic during a crisis. Just ask the folks at food ordering app Ritual who sent communication on March 12 titled “Make the smarter choice by ordering with Ritual”. The company was slammed on social media for trying to exploit people’s fear about catching the virus. Be careful about timing. That communication from Ritual might have been ok to send a month ago, but a salesy communication when panic and fear are leading the conversation is ill-advised.

In today’s unprecedented time, communicators must challenge every word of every exchange to make sure it is effective and appropriate. We must stay abreast of news and in-tune with social conversations in real time. And, we must consider the relevancy, context, tone and timing of our own communication. By following these guidelines, you will deliver powerful results and avoid costly mistakes.