Six Things to Consider Before You Send That Blast Email Update …
March 19, 2020
by John Armato
People are inundated with COVID-19 updates from nearly every organization they’ve ever interacted with. The less value those emails bring, the faster communication fatigue sets in. And that, in turn, gets in the way of building positive stakeholder relationships and affinity for your organization. Here are our guidelines for thinking through not just what to communicate, but if you should communicate at all.
1. If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything.
We all know to wash our hands now. If you’re sending a message just to say “we’re taking precautions” but aren’t actually addressing anything on the recipient’s mind, there may not be a need to push a message out at all.
Key Question: Do I have something genuinely worth communicating?
2. It’s not about you; it’s about them.
Let’s say you’re a retailer. Are you planning to tell your customers that your HQ personnel are working from home? Do you think your retail customers are interested in what happens there or might they be more interested in what happens in the store they actually visit? If you’re not focusing on what matters to them rethink your message.
Key Question: Is my message about them or about us?
3. Stay in your lane.
A shirt-maker sent an email that said “We all need to take a breath.” That might be fine from a meditation center, but … a shirt-maker? Be careful about leaping from your business to broader commentary.
Key Question: Do I have the credibility, authority and stakeholder permission to say what I’m saying?
4. Now’s not the time for “on a lighter note …” (but it might be later).
A luggage company sent an update covering the now-usual messages: “we take this seriously … sent people home … operating with skeleton crew … you can still buy our products …” etc. That’s fine. But then it added. “On a lighter note, we’re conducting a photo contest!” No. Don’t. In six weeks, if we’re still hunkered down, some “lighter stuff” might make sense. But not now.
Key Question: Is my message sensitive to the moment?
5. Get to the point.
A mass retailer sent a three-screen scroller that began with a long essay of thanks to first responders, an inspirational quote from a historical figure, and then finally a little bit of information about store closings and cleaning procedures they’re undertaking. The longer it got, the less value it brought. Don’t mistake stakeholder communication for a commencement speech.
Key Question: Am I getting to the meat of my message as quickly as possible?
6. Do something real.
Especially in times of crisis people are more interested in action than anything else. How are you fixing the problem? What are you doing to make my life better? Good messages reflect actions. Actions come from leadership decisions. And they don’t have to be groundbreaking to be powerful. A great example? A travel-industry app for paid subscribers sent this remarkably short, direct and meaningful email to its customers: “We know the coronavirus may pose financial hardships for some people. That’s why we’ve automatically extended your paid subscription for six months at no cost to you.” Period. Not just relevant, but thoughtful. Great actions make for great messages.
Key Question: Have I thought about what I can do rather than just what I can say?
John Armato is senior vice president ＆ senior partner in FleishmanHillard’s Sacramento office. He focuses on message development and organizational narratives, media training and presentation coaching, and insights and ideas sessions. You can contact him here.