Keep calm and communicate

As we head towards the unknown in the biggest public health emergency to face the world, there is already one thing you can predict with absolute certainty and that is the need for information.

Whether you are a parent wondering whether the schools will stay open, a business-owner needing to find out what government help is available or a consumer simply trying to work out whether you can still buy food to feed your family, information has now become a precious commodity, perhaps more so even than toilet roll.

As more and more people work from home, or self-isolate, there is an overwhelming urge to constantly check for information either from news outlets or social media.

We all share a collective responsibility to communicate honestly and openly. We should avoid misinformation and scaremongering.

If you are at the forefront of communications in your organisation, in the private, public or third sector, here are five simple tips to help you meet the demand for information.

  1. Stay calm
    When a situation escalates the natural instinct is to communicate as quickly as possible so that you fill the communication void. Whilst timely communication is of course important, never rush and communicate in a panic. Stay calm and gather your thoughts.
  1. Think about your audience
    Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Ask yourself, if you were them what would you want to know?
  1. Check your facts
    This is especially important if you are communicating information that the public needs to know. Check your facts, draft your communication and then check the facts again. Misinformation or mistakes will lead to more questions and even cause anxiety.
  1. Use all communication channels available to you
    Again, consider your audience and how they consume information. Make your communication available on all channels – social media, website, intranet, emails, letters to staff, letters to customers, posters in shop windows, staff rooms or community noticeboards. Where appropriate communicate important information to relevant media for publication in newspapers, radio or TV.
  1. Be honest
    Sometime the best answer really is “I don’t know.” You can explain what you will do to find out and you can commit to communicating at regular intervals when new information can be shared. In times of crisis, trust is important and once you lose it is extremely difficult to get it back.

Stay safe, stay calm and communicate.