One of the things I’ve noticed over the last few weeks is that some organisations are very aware of what their people (staff, stakeholders, suppliers and customers/clients) are going through and some are most definitely not.
In times of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever that you communicate with clarity, compassion, conviction and consistency.
You also need to ensure that the messages you’re delivering are relevant to the problems and challenges your audience is currently facing. And the current problems most people are facing are all about the COVID-19 pandemic. Which means, in a nutshell, that many, many people are hurting. And hurting big time.
My husband Shaun works for Coles in a customer-facing role. He has been sharing with me the regular emails he has been receiving from Steven Cain, CEO and Matt Swindells, Chief Operations Officer. These emails, combined with the in-store messaging from his team leader and store manager, have been filled with compassion, clarity and conviction. This, combined with the consistency in their delivery, tone and message, has helped provide peace of mind around health and safety, calmed in the face of uncertainty and has made him even more proud to be an employee as the frequency of useful, practical and compassionate communication has made him feel highly valued.
The communications by Coles to their customer base (by email, on their website and across their social media channels, and, from what I’ve been told, by the staff in their call centre) have a similar message, tone and frequency. We hear you, we see you, we value you, this is how we are trying to help you.
This is what you want your communication to look like. Now and into the future.
Which of these are you doing well? Where do you think you could improve?
You need to be oozing empathy and kindness right now. Your comms needs to acknowledge that COVID-19 is the biggest issue in the world today and that you understand your people are confused, uncertain, angry, scared, frustrated and worried. A recent report by McCrindle, COVID-19: How the global pandemic is shaping the sentiment, behaviour and outlook of Australians, found that the top five emotions Australians are currently feeling are anxious, frustrated, vulnerable, scared and hopeful.
Your communication needs to reflect this. Don’t be like the CEO who emailed me recently saying:
Compare this to:
My issue with the first email wasn’t about paying for a service vs getting something for free, it’s about the language and the lack of compassion for what we are all going through. I get that a lot of us are struggling financially, I really do. However, people will remember how you treat them, and when they have more money, they will spend it with the companies and the people who were there for them when times were tough.
In terms of your staff, it’s important to be aware of what they are thinking, feeling and doing. As well as the more obvious work changes, what’s happening in their personal world? Who are they living with and how are they managing? A big part of communication is asking, listening and observing, and if you ask the right questions, observe who is in the background when they are on video calls, and listen to what they are saying (and not saying), you will be about to help them solve some of their problems.
How many of us have listened to leaders share their thoughts, ideas, and requests and thought afterwards – or during – yep, that’s as clear as mud!!??
Your language needs to be clear, well structured, in plain English and have relevant examples and/or metaphors to help get your message across. Try not to use jargon, acronyms or complex language your audience might not understand.
Think about some of the recent messages you’ve heard. How do you feel when you hear a clear, thoughtfully structured message such as those delivered by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern? Versus those that are waffly, confusing and ramble on such as those by the American President?
One of my mentors, Jane Anderson, taught me that a confused mind says no. The more clarity you have with your messaging, the more people will take the action you want them to take.
Leaders who deliver their message with conviction are believable and more likely to be trusted. They may not always be right (history will often tell us whether the right decisions are made!), but as they believe they are, and this instils greater trust. Their belief and passion often shows through in their messaging and delivery.
A few speeches delivered with conviction – and confidence – are worth a re-listen – Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream; Hillary Clinton, Women’s Rights Are Human Rights; Julia Gillard’s Misogyny speech.
in order to sound convincing, you also need to not downplay yourself or your message and don’t constantly apologise when you have done nothing wrong! Women are especially good when it comes to downplaying our capabilities! So please STOP IT.
Finally, we need to communicate consistently. The messages need to be consistent, the frequency needs to be consistent. Don’t think that because you have said something once that it has been communicated. Communication only truly occurs when the receiver takes the message and acts on it.
Consistency and repetition lead to effective communication.
We used to have to hear a message 7 times before it sank in. Today, with the proliferation of marketing, advertising and social media vying for our attention, it’s more like 20 times. Which means we need to repeat, repeat, repeat the same, consistent message over and over and over.
What does your communication look like?
is it underpinned by a robust communication strategy?
If you’re looking for support with your communication – developing a staff and/or a customer-focused strategy, support with messaging, tactics, or which channels to use, please get in touch.