Special podcast: Coronavirus crisis communication, part 2

Learn how to communicate with your audience during these uncertain times
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Text reading episode 125 special episode, crisis communication for your business during the covid-19 outbreak. Blonde woman in white sweater and jeans leaning against a door

This special episode of Channel Mastery contains advice for brand leaders on the importance of communication during these tough times.

Last week we shared an important 20-minute podcast about coronavirus crisis communication. (Listen here.) Little did we know at that time that things would change so incredibly fast. 

Here's a quick and informative listen about how we should all be communicating with our audiences during the coronavirus crisis.

Rather read than listen? Here's the complete transcript of the podcast.

Hello there my friends. What an absolutely unforgettable week. I feel like it’s been six months since we posted our last podcast, and that was six days ago.

Kristin Carpenter here, with Verde Brand Communications and the Channel Mastery podcast. Today is March 13th, Friday the 13th, 2020 and this is another COVID-Coronavirus update from Verde. 

If you’re a friend of the Channel Mastery podcast, thank you so much for tuning in here today, and if you’re new, welcome to our community!

This podcast helps specialty brand and business leaders be remarkable to their target audiences, comprised of shoppers, comprised of brand fans, employees, external stakeholders, etc. and we do that through a shared weekly obsession on hacking the best mix of channels and messaging to win attention and emotional connection with our people.

The spirit of this show couldn't be more important than right now.

Today’s show is a solocast bringing you more of the current best practices in navigating this fast-moving Coronavirus crisis for your specialty brand. A lot has changed since we were last together, six days ago.

That change is going to continue, and I’m going to do my absolute best with my team at Verde Brand Communications, the presenting sponsor of the Channel Mastery podcast, to bring the most current best practices on how and where to communicate through this crisis. The information you’re about to hear is tailored just for specialty brands.

Okay, let’s drop in.

We are only at the start of what is going to be an absolutely revolutionary era of change, not only for our businesses – but for our entire lives.

We’re reckoning with a force of change like none of us has ever seen in our lifetime. Ever.

With that, we have no choice but to live and work very differently. We’re all discovering that change is hard and that the uncertainty is terrifying.

This solocast is all about being of service to your employees, your external close stakeholders and your community of your specialty brand. This show is about encouraging you to keep communicating through this trying time, and offering you approaches to being successful doing just that.

I wanted to start by sharing an example of an organization that I thought sent out a really successful newsletter. Yesterday, I received an email newsletter from the Adventure Travel and Trade Association (ATTA), written by its leader, Shannon Stowell. I’ve included the links in the show notes for this podcast episode.

In it, he talks about how he and his brother navigated a rapid on the Arkansas River in Salida, Colorado, on a trip earlier in their lives. It was a very low-water year, and they had to bob, weave, creatively high side and well, get pretty darn creative to get their raft through one of the rapids during a very low water season. Keep in mind, that stretch of river is known for having mining debris and railroad ties at the bottom.

For anyone that listens to this podcast regularly, you know that I love great rafting stories. It was my second favorite job during my formative years back at U.C. Davis undergrad working for the Outdoor Adventures Center. But after explaining the successful send he and his brother had on the nearly impassable rapid, Shannon said:

That resonated with me in a big way. First of all, it helped me snap to a little. Yesterday I was feeling panic creep in – the pace at Verde has been so fast on a Richter scale level in the past couple of weeks – with no down time and we care so much about our clients and of course about our amazing team at Verde. So I just had a few moments where I was feeling pretty beat up and panicked myself, which I know is pretty human. But it also reminded me that we are in this now, and we’ll be in a different spot tomorrow, and in another different spot in a few days. It’s moving so fast.

We truly do need to check our fears, and not only work together but take care of each other, and yes, be WILDLY creative.

Today I want to give tips to be of incredible service to your people – your workforce, your community and yes, your brand fans – when they need you most.

This episode will build on the five-part framework that the Verde Brand Communications team built just for our clients, which was shared in last weeks podcast. Be sure to check that episode out after you listen to this one, if you haven’t yet. Again, everything is at the show notes at Verdepr.com and channelmastery.com.

I’m going to keep it brief with three communications strategies to take care of your people right now. Remember, they need – and want - to hear from you right now. I know a lot of you are reluctant to get in front of your people right now, maybe you haven’t been in front of them regularly, maybe you’re afraid to look opportunistic but please know that you need to get in front of them right now in a way that feels appropriate to you.

On Thursday (March 12) of this week, I woke up to a world that was in a far different place with the Covid-19 health crisis. We had all entered the new world of “pandemic.” It was the morning after President Trump’s speech and the market that morning? Well, let’s just say things went even more sideways, and I’m pretty sure if you’re anything like me, you really didn’t think that was possible. More of that is going to happen.

Our clients were in front of their internal teams and close external stakeholders, and almost all of them were also in front of their brand fans and communities as of Monday of this week. But by Thursday? An immense amount had changed - there was a palpable sense of fear and a heightened sense of panic.

So my first strategy and approach that I want to offer you today is to communicate AGAIN.

Even if you haven’t gone out to anyone yet, it’s time to start. If you have, just a few days ago, it’s time to get in front of them again. This doesn’t mean to spam or post to social media in a way that you feel is opportunistic. It means communicate in a way that feels right to you. Get back in front of your internal and external people.

When you sense a big change like this, create a short and genuine communication for your internal team that updates them.

Let them know you’re aware of the changes, that you’re feeling it too, be transparent, and update them with your policies. Our clients are following the CDC guidelines for employers, as every business should be right now. They’re following the standards being shared by the CDC, while also creating policies that are aligned with their cultures, ethics and their voice.

That’s tied to the second tip – remember that at a time like this, your ethics are on public display.

It’s very important that our leadership teams are aware that there’s an ethical facet to communication right now, and that will not go away. We must act together, we must be considerate of each other – and that means, we must work together to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Our businesses have incredible reach – That’s especially true when you think of the ripple effect. Use this reach for positive change right now. One way to do that is to do the right thing with your brand and make sure your communities know about it.

Never in 1000 years would I advocate that you position your brand to be boastful right now! Absolutely not. I’m advocating instead that your brand stands up and does the right thing. And that you inform your internal workforce of that, and inform your external stakeholders of that and do the appropriate thing and approach your communities with that in a way that feels right to you.

If you want to be sure you are not coming across as boastful, you can use your company’s reach to change or effect something right now, during this crisis. Think about the many people tied to your company who are hurting right now, and work with your internal workforce to figure out how your company can collectively help. I’ve added two examples of this in the show notes to help you through this.

The CDC and government mandates in place now are about slowing the spread of the novel Corona Virus, and to resource you further, I’ve put a link in the show notes for an article that puts this into solid context, published on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Make sure your internal and external stakeholders – and your communities – know you’re committed to being a great corporate citizen and also, in protecting your team and brand fans – with the actions your company is taking.

The third and final strategy – be of service and be flexible.

We are in crisis. Many, many people are in a dark place and our least favorite thing – uncertainty – is literally all around us.

Remember that you’re leading a specialty brand. My company’s home markets are outdoor, bike, snow, travel, pets, consumer electronics as well as beer and spirits. Our brands represent the happiest times people have in their lives. Our specialty brand fans literally use their favorite brands as a stamp of their very own identities.

During a time like this, your brand can really put a positive effect on your community. And they want to hear from you! They want to hear that you are hopeful about the future by sharing what you’re excited about for future seasons through something your athletes are doing that’s remarkable or your ambassadors. Or just simply that you’re grateful that you have a company that has reach and has them in your community. They want to feel like part of your family.

I also want to add to be flexible with your customers as you expect people to be flexible with you. Be mindful and considerate of all that’s happening and the unease that we’re all feeling, but stay in front of them with messaging, with communication, with what they love about you.

Yes, we’re in the absolute clutches of this crisis, but spring and summer are on the near horizon. 

What can you put out there for your fans and followers to dream about, aspire to, or just connect with?

I don’t know about you, but I have a very strong feeling that people are going to NEED to get out into nature more than ever this year. I already feel that way and I bet you do too. Think about where your people are right now, and what they might want to hear from you right now.

And when you’re considering your workforce, and close external stakeholders, consider where they are – working from home and not traveling. There will be changes in what they’re working on. There may even be time to take on something new – something that is enriching for them.

We have a couple of incredible non-profits on our roster at Verde in The Conservation Alliance and Camber Outdoors. Both of these great organizations have incredible programming and resources that you could offer your employees and stakeholders during this time. The links are in the show notes.

I believe we can incrementally improve our companies during this time, so that we come out of this thing stronger – and we WILL come out of it. Investing in our people right now will help and I think the best next steps will be revealed when our team is stronger and we’re taking the next steps together through this uncertain time.

Remember, you’re a specialty brand - you stand for something that really matters to your people, inside and out of your company.

Serve your community and take great care of your people right now.

I’m practicing what I’m preaching with this podcast and with Verde.

The team at Verde and I are beyond committed to bringing you our A-Game during this time, and we want to be the BEST resource for you. We’ll be doing more content for you through this crisis.

And again, we believe so, so much in the power of communication; regular communication, on brand communications, in some cases when appropriate, aspirational communication. We could be what’s holding people to a happy place right now to our specialty brands.

As leaders of specialty businesses, it’s up to us to separate the BS from the facts, and lead from the facts. Communicate from the facts.

We also need to create forward progress every day with our teams.

Keep transacting, and keep engaging. The most valuable action we can take is genuine, and personal communication and engagement throughout our channels; from brand to rep, from rep to retailer, from brand to consumer. That’s what’s most valuable today. And that’s what we are here to help you with.

We also think it’s positive to keep a presence on your social media channels, keep up with regular, personal communication to your internal and external stakeholders through this time. Keep them tethered to your leadership team, and your brand.

The team at Verde is right there with you – just committed to making forward progress and entirely driven to helping our clients stay connected to their internal and external families and communities during a time when it’s perhaps the most important thing they can do.

I’d love to hear from you – if you have any questions that you’d like me to address that you think will benefit the Channel Mastery specialty business community, please send them to channelmastery@verdepr.com.

Check out the show notes at verdepr.com and channelmastery.com, and grab the transcripts for this week’s show, and last week’s five-part framework. Our social handles are also there, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you everyone, and I’ll be back with you here next week! 

You can read the show notes here.

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