Communicating During Times of Transformation

By: Stasea Stewart

What does attending a new school, starting a new job, and settling into a new living environment have in common? These new experiences all point to one central truth of our lives: change

Pew Research Center states that nearly nine-in-ten U.S. adults say their personal life has changed at least a little bit as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, with 44 percent saying their life has changed in a major way. While social distancing has changed the way we interact offline, one must also consider the changes in how we connect online.

Whether you have been active on social media or are just starting out, it is important to know how to connect with your audience’s needs during this societal change. Dr. Jill Avery, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, and Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, offer insight about what customers need to hear from you during the COVID crisis

The reality is, what audiences want to hear from brands is comforting and reassuring communication that addresses specific information about what they are doing to respond to the pandemic. Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 indicates that globally 74 percent of people worry that a lot of fake news and false information is being spread about the virus, while 45 percent say it is difficult to find reliable and trustworthy information about the virus and its effects. As communication leaders, we hold the responsibility to communicate with empathetic, factual, and relevant information.

In Marketing During COVID-19: 4 Essential Copywriting Guidelines, Kristen McCormick also offers insight surrounding communication with your audience during this time of transformation. 

Empathy, credibility, and pitch are especially important during times of transformation. Here are some best practices to consider when communicating during times of transformation.

Empathy is Key

According to the World Health Organization on May 3, 3.3 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 globally; 82,763 new cases between May 3 and 4. The anxiety and shared concern makes it especially important to be empathetic to your audience. It is important to use communication that is purposeful, positive, and helpful. Here are some questions you may consider: 

  1. What information does my audience need to know?
  2. What resonates with my audience?
  3. How should I communicate my purpose?
  4. How will I share this information?
  5. Why does this information matter? 

Offer Reliable Information

While there is concern surrounding truth, offering reliable information builds trust between you and your audience. What reliable, truth-based information can your organization provide? What information is relevant to share? The most trusted spokespeople are scientists, health officials, and doctors, meanwhile the top three most-relied on information sources include major news organizations, national government sources and social media. Keep in mind that reliable is just as important as relevant information. Audiences want to hear from you when it connects to your services. If you do not have anything valuable to say, it may be wise to choose to say nothing at all.     

Adjust Your Pitch

According to McCormick, “Google has banned advertising on travel-related services, but there are still a lot of businesses that can, and should, advertise relevant services during COVID-19. Just make sure to modify your copywriting so that calls to action are appropriate.” In what ways should you modify your communication style to be relevant, factual, and supportive?

As change occurs at a global scale, we must consider how we, too, must change. When you connect with your audience, modify your outreach to meet your audience’s needs, and provide valuable information, you are in essence fostering community and developing credibility. The core expectation that consumers have of brands in any situation, but particularly in a crisis, is that brands will do what is right for their employees, suppliers, customers, and society at large.

Return to the UW Communication Leadership COVID Consultancy homepage. 

About the Author

Stasea Stewart was born and raised in the shrubland city of Lancaster, CA. Her childhood home, located at the end of a cul-de-sac, is where she learned the value of community, connections and networking. In 2019, Stewart graduated from California State University, Fullerton as a BOLD Women’s Leadership scholar with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication – Public Relations degree. She is a current CommLead student who strives toward contributing to the body of human research surrounding communication, media, and culture. She will apply for doctoral programs at the end of 2020.

Stasea StewartCommunicating During Times of Transformation
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