Keeping It Together: 9 Tips for Communicating During the Coronavirus Crisis

I think we’re all struggling to adjust right now.  Speaking personally, every time I form a strategy I feel confident in these last two weeks, some event or development knocks me off course.  And with this I’m not just talking about business strategy.  Basics like shopping for supplies, managing family health scenarios – all of it is constantly shifting.  And then there’s the constant worry about family and friends that are medical professionals, volunteers or workers in Emergency Response.  Worry about the economic impact, threatening the livelihood of friends, family-members, our own vendors and clients.  Beyond all the people in my own small life network, I spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about medical professionals and law enforcement I’ve never met before but who are risking it all – across the country right now as I type the sentence out, and as you read it.

It’s a lot for any of us to juggle all at once in our brain.  Likely too much.  As modern Americans, never before have the tectonic plates of society become so palpable to us, shifting beneath our feet with volatility, and forcing us to react and adapt — quickly.

Communication during this time is key.  On the personal level, it’s critical we’re communicating with those closest to us, checking-in as often as we can.  Professionally, we all have our unique networks we’re trying to stay connected to.

I’ll readily admit that I’ve struggled with adjusting my communication so far.  Matt and I have quickly been faced with big questions driving us to determine who we are as a company and how we can help our own network right now.  How can we support our own team and add value to our clients?  And also, how can we support each other?  Here’s some conclusions that I’ve come to and that I can finally say, I feel good about…

1.  We’re All In This Together:       No matter where we fall in the spectrum of impact on this, it’s important to remember that impact is pervasive.  This is a mindset that needs to fuel any of our communication – especially professional communication.  And our actions need to back-up our words – especially to anyone that looks to us for leadership.  If we need extra help, extra effort, or that really important favor – we need to be ready and willing to bring the support, relief and our own additional effort to help meet that challenge.

2.  Don’t Ask of Others What We’re Not Willing To Do Ourselves:   In times of crisis, integrity is all too easily eroded.  A lot of us are desperate already, a lot more (myself included) are staring down forecasts that are really uncertain.  Either outlook leads to anxiety.  But it’s important in the midst of this to think of the other members of our team, their safety and well-being.  Specific to business, when we’re faced with difficult decisions it’s important to ask ourselves, “am I asking of someone else something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself?”  If the answer is yes, then it’s a non-starter.

3.  Here’s the Reality:     None of us have time for BS, especially right now.  If we have bad news to deliver – put it out there clearly and then be wholly accessible to field questions and the disappointment that may come back your way.  And when it comes to good news, which we’re all hungry for – don’t over-inflate it, in fact I’d even say downplay it.  This is a time to look for the silver linings, chase down opportunities with all of our strength, but it’s also a time to be humble and focused.  Everything should be in its right place and we all need a strong dose of “humble transparency” right now.  This isn’t a time to play games or string members of your network along.

4.  Brick by Brick:         Treat successes and challenges as equal lessons to build upon.  What can we learn from each event and how will it help us calibrate our strategy and better adapt?  No one alive in our country has ever gone through this before, so cut yourself and everyone else around you some much needed slack.  If you’re one of the lucky Remind yourself you’re doing the best you can and that there’s always room to learn and improve – during this crisis and beyond.

5.  Be The Friend You’d Want In Your Life:     This is something Matt and I talk about all the time, how lucky we are that our clients and vendors alike are people we are grateful to call friends.  It’s something we really set out to do with the people we work with, be dependable, be honest and also strive to have fun.  I think to have any level of success in storytelling, you need to enjoy people.  Right now, the friend we all need is someone that lets us know we’re thinking of them and making sure they’re okay.  It’s a time for showing increased compassion, understanding, and it’s still okay to make people laugh too.  We all need it.

6.  Am I Adding Value?        A big question to ask ourselves in any interaction where there is a “business ask” right now.  For us specifically, we’ve quickly pivoted to virtual content creation.  Remote podcasting, zoom and skype recording and then editing of presentations, assembly of sizzle reels from existing assets, etc.  These are services we can offer right now, in the middle of this that someone can quickly implement IF they have the immediate need to get messaging out. Some of our clients have completely had to transition communication strategies in a matter of days as this crisis unfolds, or are scrambling to get a crisis-related message out there.  We’ve taken the approach of letting people know we’re here, and that we have a couple plans we could deploy now if needed.  We’ve tried to strike a balance between letting our clients know we’re still out here and able to help without adding to their stress levels.

7.  Give More, Take Less:      Pretty sure I mentioned humility somewhere up above and this fits into this point perfectly. This is a time where we all need to pick-up each other and this is no different in how we treat our business decisions.  We need to bring and offer more of ourselves to each conversation, each project, each deliverable while taking less for ourselves.  Do I mean money?  Yes, and we should be proactive with offering discounts or donations.  But this goes far beyond money, this means striving to each give more of our attention and unique expertise to each interaction.  This isn’t a time for pushing an agenda that suits our own perceived goals, it’s a time for working with what we all have, being creative and innovative – and solving problems together.

8.  Take the Longview:       This one’s so difficult right now, when we all have immediate issues and challenges we face.  Each day is brand new uncharted territory and the future is massively uncertain.  This means we’re all making a lot of short-term decisions right now.  And we should be, it’s imperative we focus on those choices right now.  But I do think it’s important to carve out even 60 seconds for ourselves and create a moral North Star.  I’m talking about imagining the person we want to be when we’re out on the other side of this.  What will we want to look back on and say we did?  What will we want our friends, family and colleagues to say about us six months, a year or five years from now?  It’s important to develop that North Star now and to make sure we re-visit it, even if it’s 60 seconds at a time often throughout this.  That will inform the choices we make in the day-to-day.

9.  Be a Brand You’d Want To Support:      I’m speaking here as a business owner for sure, but we are all representing ourselves — we are all our own personal brand.  What we put out into the world creates a perception about us.  And while we can’t, and never should strive to make everyone out there happy – we can jot down 4-5 things we like about the brands and people that inspire us.  So while we likely can’t put 1000 kids from Akron, Ohio completely through college (yeah, I love LeBron James) we can DoorDash a meal to an elderly neighbor, or ship a bottle of scotch to that ER doctor that’s been working around the clock for the last 2 weeks.  If we each find little ways to make things better around us, well then great big changes start to take shape all around us.  And then, we can all look back as a community, a county, a state, a country, and maybe…just maybe even a world and be proud of who we were during this all.

Okay, sorry about that just now.  Think my mug of optimism just overflowed a bit too much.  Promise I’ve stepped off the soapbox and descended back to our #lessthanawesomeEarth right now.  But in closing, if you got this far — first of all, you must really be bored in life right now.  But that’s cool, I’m happy you shared your boredom with me and these words.  I used to love adding articles like this to my own blog and our Fade In one as well.  And after writing just two new articles in the last few days, I’m remembering why I used to love it so much.  Life’s been real busy these last few years, and that’s been great.  But the last 2 weeks have forced me, like a lot of people to stop and take a big deep breath (in the safety of my own home of course). Writing has always made me feel more connected, more true to myself.  So it’s nice to be back here, even under the circumstances.

In closing, please stay safe and on behalf of my friends that are physicians and emergency services workers on the front lines of this thing – please STAY HOME.  We all need to help each other right now.  Again, we’re all in it together…


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