I’ve spent the last week putting together various crisis comms for our housing and third sector clients.  I’m guessing you’ll be doing the same thing, so wanted to share what we’ve learned so far.

1. Don’t state the bleeding obvious

Everyone knows there’s a virus.  You don’t need to waste words reminding them.  Imagine that every word costs you a fiver. Out of your own pocket. After tax.  And you don’t need to put on a white coat and call it ‘Covid19’ or even ‘Coronavirus’.

2. sound like a human being

Take that corporate tone of voice, sling it in the skip and flick in a lit match. Now, more than any other, is the time to sound human. You’re a human being who cares, writing to a human being who needs care.  The more human you sound, the more reassured your customers will be.

3. Reassure, reassure, reassure

People need reassurance at the moment.  Tell them (if it’s true) that you’ve got their back, that you’re giving a rent holiday, that your support team is still working and can help.  Reassure with specific content, but also through your tone of voice.

4. Ditch the puff

Now is absolutely not the time for corporate puff. Don’t waste words and your readers’ time on stuff like “Our customers’ welfare is vital to us here at AnyCo…” If it really is the most important thing, don’t tell, demonstrate how.

5. Be specific

People want facts at the moment.  Tell people exactly what you’re doing, by when, how long it will take and when they’ll hear from you – be specific. And if you don’t know, say you don’t know rather than fudging.

6. Think of new, clear ways to say things

This isn’t a persnickety point of writing style, it’s to help give your message the immediacy and cut-through it needs.  For example, I started a letter to a particular group of tenants this morning with “We’ve got your back.” rather than “Tenant welfare is our key focus over the coming weeks”.

Above all, keep communicating, let people know what’s going on, even if it’s bad news, and we’ll get through this.

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