The COVID-19 pandemic is dominating the news and occupying the minds of everyone around the globe. It’s impossible to escape the utter bombardment of content surrounding it. Because there is such an overwhelming saturation of COVID-19 news, pieces of misinformation are bound to slip in.
Misinformation and misconceptions can be caused by a lot of different factors, but the main one that I’ve seen throughout the news, and from the communications that companies are releasing to their audiences, is the lack of clear, concise copy.
Distributing clear, concise copy is always important, of course, but during unprecedented times like these, it’s more crucial than ever before – literally. The news is an entirely different animal to tackle, but right now, companies have a duty to communicate with their audience in a transparent, actionable way. Every company, no matter what industry they’re in, has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s imperative they develop a message detailing that impact so everyone, from their employees to stakeholders to consumers, can understand it.
As a copywriter, it’s my job to create copy that clearly communicates what my clients want to say to their audience, and I strive to write these messages in a way that eliminates the chance of there being any misinterpretations. When there are lapses of communication distributed by businesses during this time, I see a wasted opportunity to get ahead of this crisis in order to better understand and serve consumers. Additionally, there’s a possibility that the company could lose the trust and loyalty it’s spent years building with its customer base.
Right now, it’s important to clearly define your message in order to reach your audience in a meaningful way. Below are my top tips on how to streamline your copy so your company can relay the most effective message possible in the shortest amount of time.
Address the Elephant in the Room
One of the first things a company needs to do during this time is to directly and visibly address the pandemic. Next, they need to be transparent about how it’s affecting them and how it’s going to affect their consumers. If there was ever a time to shout a message from the rooftops, it’s right now.
The goal of writing clear copy is to give peace of mind to your audience, while also trying to show them that you are fully on top of this situation so they’ll continue to trust you. These may be unprecedented times, but at the end of the day, your audience is looking to you because they want to know if you are still going to deliver what they need, and if you’re not, they need reassurance that you have a plan in place to navigate this new normal.
So, address the pandemic head-on in your messaging. If you haven’t already, sit down with all of your stakeholders and board members to adapt your crisis management strategy to fit with the pandemic. Then develop direct, consistent messages that will address the issues at hand, answer any immediate questions and, most importantly, keep your audience’s well being at the center of it.
Broadcast Your Message Consistently On All of Your Platforms
Another way for your company to practice clear concise communication is to broadcast your message methodically on all of your platforms and channels. In a widespread situation like the coronavirus pandemic, you can’t solely rely on a single communication or channel to get your point across. Because of the media’s oversaturation of this topic, it’s easy for people to miss something important. Your company needs to go above and beyond to make sure that your message is accessible to everyone at all times.
Some companies are doing this better than others. Take two popular home essentials brands, Charmin and Bounty, for example. There has been an unprecedented shortage of toilet paper and paper towels over the past several weeks, and many people around the world are having to go without these products. While Charmin has taken steps to keep consumers informed, Bounty’s messaging has left something to be desired.
Charmin changed its homepage to the message below and pinned a tweet about it as well. To add to the message’s effectiveness, the Charmin team kept their communications virtually identical:
Bounty on the other hand, which is in the same group as Charmin, didn’t follow suit with its homepage. Though it did tweet a message on March 16. (And to be fair, they are donating to people who are have been affected by the pandemic.):
Bounty missed a huge opportunity to give their customers the peace of mind they need during this time. As a company that is most likely getting inundated with questions, ensuring that a cohesive message is immediately accessible on their sites is a must. And because there isn’t much communication around the coronavirus from Bounty, it could affect how their customers see them during and after the crisis.
So, take a page out of Charmin’s book and develop direct copy that can be displayed across multiple channels, like your website, social media, print materials, and other forms of media, so that you can meet every member of your audience where they are and relay your message to them.
Trust in Your Writers
When in doubt, trust in the writers you have on staff. Writers are trained to convey messages in the most effective way possible. So, if you find yourself in over your head when you’re developing a message, have your writers take a stab at it. You’ll be amazed at how they are able to consolidate the ideas in your head into one well-written statement. On top of them being excellent writers, they are also trained to be excellent editors, so they can take copy that is too complicated and significantly pare it down. The end result will be a refined, transparent piece of communication that you can use consistently throughout the pandemic.
During this time, we all have to do our part to cut through the noise that is being flung at us from all angles. One thing your company can do right now is develop a clear communication strategy to share with your community. In the end, your audience will thank you and you’ll find that their trust in your company will grow.