The world is full of uncertainty. None of us knows what is coming next. Most people are focused on how to work from home, how to home school kids, and where to buy food. But soon this will become our new normal. We will need to figure out how to live our lives and how to keep being productive at work (while we are at home).
If you are a public servant, your work will continue in some form or another. All of those commitments you made to clients, stakeholders or the public before this crisis hit still stand. When we get back to “business as usual” you are going to need to start to communicate with them, so they know what to expect and when.
There are a few fundamentals you need to remember to manage expectations:
The world is changing around us, and we don’t know all of the answers yet. If you don’t know if your project is continuing, or when your consultation will happen – tell them. In a world where we are being driven by rumour and speculation, just tell your clients what you know.
Set clear expectations
If your report isn’t coming or the legislation change you have been consulting on is going to be delayed, tell your clients. Tell them when you expect to start again or when you expect a decision to be made.
Don’t wait until you have all of the information, or all of the answers, to communicate to your clients or stakeholders. Be conscious that every other business is doing the same, so don’t tell your clients COVID-19 is here – they know that! Don’t repeat the news, tell them what is relevant about your project.
Understand their perspective
While we know we need to tailor our communications to the audience, it is even more important than ever. Before you communicate, consider your audience’s perspective:
- Are you working with small businesses? They are currently freaking out and figuring out how to stay afloat. Consider if you need to communicate with them at all right now – is it critical?
- Engaging with an industry group? They are focused on supporting their members and saving their industry. What can you tell them that might help with that?
- Dealing with big business? They are worried about their employees, about productivity, about the impending recession.
It is not BAU
If you are proceeding like nothing is happening, it’s just business as usual, you will look silly. The world is now different. Everyone’s priorities are different. You need to be positioning your communications in the current environment. Make it relevant, clear and pointed – no one has time for mucking around right now.
I would love to hear how you are managing your external communications during this tough time. Got a tough issue? Reach out, let me know where you need help.