how to communicate in uncertain times

Knowing how to communicate with your people in uncertain times is crucial for your business.

At times of rapid change, many of your people will be scared and looking to you for guidance and to let them know, to the best of your ability, what’s going to happen to them.

There are a few practical steps you can take with the way you communicate, that will help people feel calmer and more informed about the course of action being taken and how it affects them.

Let’s take a look at these now…

Use a single route for important communications

Pick one channel to communicate your current situation – the one which everyone can most easily access and you know is used – and stick with it.

If you have other open channels (e.g. you plan to use email for any important messages but also have a WhatsApp group or Facebook page) simply make it clear which route you’re taking for the updates and ask people to refrain from debate in other channels. Otherwise it becomes impossible to keep up with who said what to who and where. People then get missed, questions go unanswered and uncertainty grows!

Similarly have one point of contact to communicate all your outgoing communications – if everyone knows that Tom is sending out situation updates, everyone will prioritise opening and reading Tom’s emails, increasing the chance that all your teams will get the message.

Keep communications brief and to the point

When your messages are important you want everyone to read and fully understand them. So, keep sentences short, stick to the one message that needs to be delivered, and don’t try to explain or expand into other topics. If you want people to take action put that at the beginning of the email!

For example: “Please use the new sanitiser station at the entrance to the office.

We have now installed a hand sanitiser to help reduce infection risk and for the health of everyone in the building. It is by the lifts to the right of the main door. We ask that everyone uses it when entering or leaving the building.”

Keep opinion to a minimum

It doesn’t matter whether you think the current uncertainty your business is facing is a ‘storm in a teacup’ or that ‘the end of the world is nigh.’ People will be at both ends of the spectrum and all points in between. It’s not for you to judge how they feel. Stick to facts (“in light of low numbers, the meeting will not go ahead”) and keep your frustrations to yourself (in other words not “because so many of you are making such a fuss, we’ll cancel the meeting.”).

Avoid fixed dates and longer-term commitments

When your business is facing uncertainty, situations can change rapidly. Perhaps things will be resolved in a couple of weeks, or perhaps you’ll find you’re still grappling with it for months to come. So, avoid setting a fixed timeframe on how and when things will change.

For example, “we’re postponing the party – we will reschedule in due course,” rather than “we’re postponing the party for a month.” In the same vein, only cancel as far ahead as seems reasonable. If you’re asked about a specific date, simply say “we will decide closer to the time.”

Keep positive – even if you don’t feel like it!

The reality is your business might suffer because of the current situation it finds itself in. Even if you feel like you’re on the edge of commercial oblivion, stay upbeat! Not only will it help your people to remain as calm as possible, it will also help you all to keep going and seek out new ways to work together to recover.

I really hope these ideas help if you find your business is going through uncertainty right now, or at any time in the future. The easier, simpler and more positive your communications, the better things will be for your worried staff and customers.

If you have any concerns about the way you handle this kind of situation in your business, book a free content review call and we’ll be happy to help you with putting your communications together.

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