Developing a communications strategy in an uncertain time doesn’t have to be an uncertain task.
COVID-19 has proven just how important it is to have a solid communication strategy that you can execute when you need it. There is so much information available and the channels constantly change. It can feel hard to keep up before you’ve started. And although you might be feeling overwhelmed personally, citizens need to know what’s happening so they feel informed and safe.
Use this 7-step checklist to review your strategy and plan for the communications you’ll distribute to your stakeholders, whether it’s about COVID-19 or any other message on behalf of your organization.
1. Create a single source of COVID-19 information on your website.
Use your website to establish a central access point where people can access the information they need.
Make it clearly visible by using a banner across the top of your home page (and all additional site pages) with a clickable link to COVID-19 information so that it stands out and people can access the information quickly and easily.
You might even consider adding content to your home page in a permanent location so that once urgent information is distributed, people know where to come back to.
2. Communicate how the services your stakeholders rely on are affected.
First, identify the stakeholders that will be affected by the decisions you are making or the situation you are facing because of COVID-19. If you’re not sure what information is the most important or where to start, put yourself in their shoes. What will they want to know?
Generally, stakeholders will want to know:
- How the service has changed
- How they will be affected
- What they need to do (where applicable)
3. Tell your stakeholders what they can do to stay informed about changes.
No one knows how long a crisis will last or how our economy and communities will look in a week, a month or a year from now. Your communication strategy cannot plan for every possible outcome.
What you do need to do is to create a way for people to stay informed, and then tell them how - whether that’s by checking your website regularly, following your organization on social media or subscribing to your mailing list.
4. Provide direct links to up-to-date information from other levels of government or organizations that are relevant to the services you provide.
Generally, it’s a good practice to only communicate information that you own or control. However, there are situations when information from other sources can be helpful to your stakeholders.
Some do’s and don’ts:
DO streamline what you share. Provide a direct link as a resource if the information is relevant, useful, or regularly requested by your stakeholders.
DO shine a light on community efforts, collaborations and successes in response to the crisis.
DON’T re-create information from other levels of government.
DON’T para-phrase or reference content from other sources in your key messages. This information may change and affect the consistency of your messaging.
5. Set a regular schedule of COVID-19 updates.
The exact frequency of your updates will depend on the seriousness of the impacts to your stakeholders and the nature of those impacts (e.g. one-time impact vs. continuing impacts over time).
Make a plan in advance and tell your stakeholders what to expect. This builds accountability and trust and also ensures you can prepare and deliver content in a timely way.
- A municipal government may want to try a weekly update since services may be substantially interrupted and affect a large number of stakeholders.
- A business that can continue to provide the majority of its services online with minimal disruption could update less frequently.
Remember: You can change the frequency of your updates as the needs of your stakeholders change or the crisis unfolds.
6. Expand your reach by tweaking content to suit the medium.
A good communication strategy uses multiple channels to reach its stakeholders. You may need to update the content and its length with the audience and channel in mind. We use email differently than a text, social media or a voice message. Keep those differences in mind and write to suit the platform.
Remember: Update content and length but keep key messages consistent across all channels to reinforce messaging and prevent confusion.
7. Provide two-way communication.
Effective communications goes both ways. Give your stakeholders multiple ways to get in touch with you and encourage them to reach out. Monitor your social media channels, respond to citizens and use that feedback to inform your approach to communications.
Input from the people most affected builds stronger relationships by reassuring your stakeholders that you are listening and available to them.
- Provides critical information to help you refine your communication strategy over time
- Ensures your key messages and resources are getting to people with the exact information they need
That’s it! If your communication strategy has hit the 7 key points above, you can feel confident that you’re on the right track.
If you’d like some one-on-one advice from an expert, or want our team to design or update your communication strategy to make sure you are getting the most of it, sign up for The Accelerator Training Program or contact us.