COVID-19 has placed us all on the same page in terms of priorities surrounding health and safety — but shared priorities aren’t the same as shared language. At work, effective communication has become a game of high stakes; not only does business communication have the power to make or break relationships, it can now save lives or place them at risk depending on how messages are delivered.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of ways to leverage verbal and visual communication during COVID-19 that can help fortify business connections and maintain stability both in-house and out in the field.
1. Choose substance over style
Style is a crucial component of business communication, and bold is almost always better than boring. That said, our current climate demands a more serious, no-nonsense approach. Experts advise using simple, unadorned language and employing an empathetic tone in the wake of COVID-19 that addresses business challenges head-on without raising unnecessary alarm.
For both buyers and employees, it’s best to be upfront about roadblocks and how you plan to dismantle them. It’s likewise advisable to focus on the “why” and not just the “what.” Offering the reasons for your actions will help smooth the lines of communication and cut back on confusion.
It’s also a good idea to demonstrate how you’re contributing to pandemic relief on a broader scale. If your organization has joined the fight against COVID-19 by transforming business models, offering to help on the front lines, or implementing innovative policies to protect workers and customers, spread the word. These efforts can build loyalty and trust by positioning your company as part of the solution to a universal problem.
2. Use visual aids
A recent study indicates that visual communication continues to trend upward, with an estimated 82% of internet traffic expected to involve video by 2022. The importance of visual learning has even been highlighted by the WHO, which advises using video, graphics, or charts to disseminate essential information.
As the WHO suggests, visual aids can help organizations avoid misunderstanding by speaking to a wide spectrum of learning styles and comprehension levels. In addition, a visual transmission of ideas can boost creativity, which makes it ideal for in-house communication among colleagues.
When crafting messages for buyers, customers, or employees, try infusing your content with complementary visual material, especially where data and statistics are concerned. This material can include:
- A pie-chart of company-wide donations to institutions affected by the pandemic
- A video message from your CEO detailing a step-by-step guide to safe social distancing at business locations
- A slideshow of photos depicting employee WFH stations with tips on how to maximize at-home work schedules
3. Make face-to-face your go-to
Powerful as they are, visuals still can’t compare to in-person conversation. In fact, research cited in Science Daily suggests that listeners are more likely to stay engaged when they know they’re being watched. This means pre-recorded videos won’t really cut it. As SmallBizDaily previously noted, it’s time to start video chatting if you haven’t already.
Video conferencing should be one of your primary methods of getting in touch, particularly as it can help ensure things like inflection, gesture, and intent won’t be easily misconstrued by colleagues or customers. A reminder, though: When mapping out communications, remember that employees serve as your brand ambassadors. If new info arises, encourage managers to set up a video chat and deliver critical news to customer-facing teams before sales reps continue their facetime interactions with buyers. This will help maintain consistency as information moves from the C-suite to the public and will ensure no rep enters into a buyer conversation unprepared.
4. Match your messaging to your audience
It’s always been true that communication should be tailored to its audience, and COVID-19 hasn’t changed that fact.
As any savvy marketer will tell you, messaging that’s impactful for first-time buyers probably won’t feature the same language or the same strategies as messaging that targets customers, so it’s important to cater your communication to your audiences before sending out any emails or offering to hop on any video calls.
When addressing employees, consider the ins and outs of their role before speaking to them. Make an effort not to overwhelm them with details they won’t be able to use when they sit down to do their actual jobs.
For communication with buyers or customers, personalization techniques will serve you well. Refer back to buyer profiles, demographics, and purchase histories before reaching out to a specific lead or an existing customer. This extra step will help you tailor your language to your buyers’ needs and pain points and can help inspire confidence in your ability to tackle problems and offer ongoing value — with or without the pandemic.
Despite the recent cataclysmic shift in our global landscape, many of the fundamental rules of business communication still stand. In times of chaos, direct and purposeful messaging is perhaps the cleanest, most uncomplicated path from A to B. We suggest making clarity your watchword and repurposing existing tactics (such as a face-to-face strategy) and tools (such as video and segmentation) to help your business cut through the COVID noise.
Eleni Hagen is a content strategist for Highspot, the industry’s most advanced sales enablement platform, which helps organizations close the loop across marketing, sales, and customers.