Staying strong

Life is pretty overwhelming right now. We have to be ready at a moment’s notice to respond and adapt to a constantly changing situation. And we have to be able to do it in a way that motivates our audience to take positive actions (and not negative ones, like hoarding toilet paper).

If you’re struggling with all the moving parts, remember that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to feel sad, frustrated, scared, stressed, alone, and uncertain. We’re all there right now.

Here’s a checklist to help you make it through:

  • Relax your shoulders, un-clench your jaw.
  • Close your eyes. Take three deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. 
  • Take a break if you need to. 
  • Go for a walk. Get in the fresh air if you can. 
  • Reconnect with why what you’re doing is important. 
  • Ask for help. We’re all in this together. 
  • Break your tasks down into smaller pieces.

And remember…. you’ve got this!

The hierarchy of information

Communicating crisis information has to be factual, timely, and aligned with current government and legislative directives. Here is a hierarchy of source information and directives which will be the foundation for your messaging.

  1. Federal government. The Government of Canada Covid-19 webpage has current news, travel advice, data, and resources. Use this source for guidance on federal direction on travel recommendations, EI information, economic supports, and disease control measures.
  2. Provincial and Indigenous governments. The BC government’s COVID-19 Provincial Support and Information webpage breaks down response information into further, local resources, including information for provincial employers and employees. Indigenous Services Canada’s preparedness and response to COVID-19 is a laundry list of to-do items. Do you know of a better resource?
  3. Relevant sector or professional organizations. Most sectors have a professional group that supports information and advocacy and by now most have specific Covid-19 information pages. Use their recommendations and resources to help guide your messaging. Examples include Small Business BC’s Covid-19 Resources and BCGEU’s Covid-19 Information Hub.
  4. Organizational mission and values statements. If you’ve done a good job of your mission statement it will hold true in desperate times. Use it now to reinforce your organization’s response to the crisis.
  5. Leadership direction. Finally, after confirming direction from all of the governing and legislative bodies, you can include direction and response from your org’s leadership team. Keep it real, keep it compassionate, keep it focused on the audience.

Q. What other sources of information and direction do you use?

The general public is not your audience

via GIPHY

In times like these, it can be easy to assume your messaging should go out to everyone. The information that we’re distributing is going to impact everyone. But even if the “general public” is your audience goal, you still need to define just who those people are because you can’t communicate to everybody in the same way.

Here are a few tips for defining your audience so you can ensure you’re reaching everyone in the best possible way.

Define them

Just who is it you’re trying to reach?

  • Where do they live? Are you wanting to reach everyone in British Columbia, or just the people in a certain city/area?
  • What demographics are you aiming for? Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, the Greatest Generation? 
  • Do you really need to reach everyone or is there a certain portion of this group you want to reach? Just adults with children in school? Just people who use your services? 

Do they know you? 

Where are these people in the relationship cycle in regards to your organization?

  • Are they long time supporters who regularly engage with you?
  • Are they people who only seek you out when they need support?
  • Are they just learning about you?
  • Do they even know who you are?

What channels do they consume?

Where does your audience go to receive the sort of information you’re distributing? Facebook or TikTok? A newspaper or a news site? Podcasts or the radio?

How do they consume messages?

Once you know the channel, then figure out the best way to convey the message. Data and charts? A reassuring voice of reason? A Facebook live Q&A?

TIP: There really is no general public. Break your audience into segments so you can communicate to them in the most effective way.

Resources:

First things first

Are you trying to get some messaging out to your community about your organization’s COVID-19 response? Here’s a few tips for getting started:

  1. Make a plan. Get a communications plan template. It will help you identify the key elements for creating a communications brief. Here’s a pretty simple one.
  2. Create a META message. This is a draft of all of the important details that will be shared with most audiences. Not all audiences will get all of the details, but it will be your source document.
  3. Determine your audience(s). Are you writing to internal staff? To donors? To children or adults or people with pets? Even though you’ll start with a meta message, you’ll probably need different messages for different audiences.
  4. Pick a platform. Pick the communications vehicle that gets the most attention from your primary audience. It could be an e-blast or Facebook or on the website. You’ll get to all of them eventually.
  5. Don’t worry about perfect. The time to communicate with your stakeholders is now. Even if your message is brief (but compassionate!), your community is confused and desperate for information. They need you!

TIP: Make sure that the contact information for whomever is responsible for answering questions about the message is clearly indicated in the message.

RESOURCE: Video – Communicating [in] Crisis: 4 Proven Strategies to Communicate in Quarantine

Hello communicators!

Welcome to our blog, especially created for communications professionals trying to manage the constantly evolving communications opportunities and challenges of a world in crisis.

We’ll provide perspective, tips, links, strategy, wisdom, and data from our combined experience in professional communications and community engagement. And we’ll also offer optimism! And we hope you’ll submit your ideas and tips, too.

Ready? Let’s do this!