Three ways SME owners can raise their comms game and visibility during the COVID-19 crisis

This is an unprecedented time for a lot of small businesses, which have neither bigger corporations' scale of operations, nor the advisors to help them navigate the difficult days that lie ahead.

Advice for SMEs: be transparent, stick to your values and keep communicating, writes Neil McLeod
Advice for SMEs: be transparent, stick to your values and keep communicating, writes Neil McLeod

We’ve all seen plenty of “A letter from our CEO” mailers dropping into our inboxes from big brands like Marriott International, MAC and The Body Shop; sincere prose about how they’re handling this outbreak to ensure the safety of their staff and their customers.

But what about the small businesses who aren’t in the mainstream consumer spotlight?

Now is a time for CEOs and founders of smaller firms to be heard.

Whether you’re a company deep in the supply chain, a manufacturer or service provider, it doesn’t matter how behind-the-scenes – or how small – you are: you must communicate with all key stakeholders.

This communication can act as reassurance that your business will continue – or, if you can no longer work due to COVID-19 government restrictions, an honest and clear message to the people who need it the most.

These are the three things you should focus on within your comms during this time:

Transparency

Now isn’t the time to hide your issues or sweep them under the rug. You should be providing transparent and clear advice to your staff on senior people who are self-isolating/have contracted COVID-19, clearly communicate to your workforce about any employees who have become furloughed, and take time to be sincere. Your employees, stakeholders and customers know and understand that this is an unprecedented time, so any business decisions that must be made at this stage aren’t a show of weakness, but of necessity. Choose your wording carefully; be emotive, not overly corporate, and be sincere about how these decisions are making you feel. All of this will lead to better relationships down the line.

Stick to your values

Remember your own company values throughout the crisis. No one can blame you for the outbreak, but they will look at how you handled yourself and your business throughout, so stay true to everything you believe in and your company ethos. Now would be the wrong time to abandon that outlook. If your biggest asset is your company’s creativity, be creative with your comms; if your biggest asset is your people, make sure they know that is still the case. Now is the time to be sure of yourself and your company’s identity.

Keep communicating

The world is different but it hasn’t stopped turning, and your key messages will be even more vital when this has passed. Until then, you should look to put out weekly comms to your customers, employees and stakeholders, giving them vital updates on how you are handling the situation and any major changes that they should be aware of. Be sure to use all platforms as best you can; social media is indispensable at this time and offers a low-cost way to make sure no one is left in the dark. It’s also a good platform to show your best practices via video and gives the opportunity for your content to be shared.

Just because the world is in lockdown, doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to gain the attention of potential new customers and stakeholders for when this ends.

Neil McLeod is director of strategic communications at PHA Group


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