In these uncertain times, it can be hard to know how to ease fear, keep your employees safe, and communicate and share updates as the situation around coronavirus (COVID-10) continues to evolve. Many of you already have workflows and plans in place for communicating COVID-19 updates to your teams, but we wanted to do something to contribute. Our talented team, many of which are former retail professionals, have been putting our heads together and came up with a few best practices for communicating during a crisis that we wanted to share with you.
Stick to one message for all audiences.
Your store teams aren’t the only ones concerned about Coronavirus – your customers are, too. Now, more than ever, it’s important that your messaging matches up. Remember that your employees are often also your customers, and that they’re probably fielding questions from their friends and family too. Having one core message that’s the same for all audiences provides clarity and comfort.
Make sure your task force is representative of your employee and customer base.
Often the teams responsible for customer-facing content (like Corporate Communications, PR, and Marketing) don’t work hand-in-hand with teams responsible for store-facing content. Take the time to ensure all departments are working from the same script. Make a special effort to put field leaders – like Regional Directors or Territory VPs – on your Coronavirus task force. They’ll bring a unique perspective to the conversation and will ensure your messaging addresses the unique needs of stores.
Don’t forget the “why.”
In the midst of a global health pandemic, information can change without warning and one solution doesn’t necessarily fit all. Your store leaders may have to make tough calls about what to prioritize, or how to execute direction from Headquarters in a way that fits with their particular location’s situation at the time. Equipping your fleet with the “why” behind every decision and direction – whether it’s why you’re adjusting HR policies or why you’re asking for increased sanitation measures – provides context that helps them prioritize and step up as individual leaders.
Above all, transparency and frequency.
You might not have all the answers right now – and that’s ok! Be upfront about decisions that are still in flux and tell your fleet when you plan to revisit those decisions and come up with an answer. Even if you have nothing “new” to report, plan to check in regularly so stores know you’re still working on a solve. In uncertain times, more frequent updates can help settle fears and provide comfort. It also prevents people from guessing what’s happening.
As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, we’re here for you. Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected by this. We don’t have all the answers, but we do have a dedicated team of former retail operations leaders, communicators and project managers who’ve encountered similar situations before and are eager to help. If you have any best practices you would like to share, learn, or know more about? Let us know.
Take care of yourself and each other. 💖
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