If there’s one thing 2020 has shown us, it’s how to bolster our communication skills. We’ve had cause for a lot of really difficult conversations with our customers. Nobody ever wants to give bad news, but 2020 seems like the year we have to keep reiterating and sharpening our communication skills with difficult messages.
But if you feel like you’ve had challenge after challenge and you’re still wondering the best way to deliver those difficult messages, let’s take a look at a few tactics you can use.
This is the easiest way to communicate on difficult conversations. If you don’t have all the answers in front of you, don’t wait until you do. This is rarely a good idea.
Instead, explain what you do know in a very simple way without judgment or accusations. Explain what you still need to figure out. Then let your audience know when you will have the information they want. Never wait for all the info when it’s a hot button topic but don’t share conjecture either.
Start shaping the conversation as soon as you are aware of an issue and tell people when you will likely know more. Then check back in with what you’ve uncovered when you told them you would.
Personalize it to Your Business
Instead of using a broad general message that you “borrowed” from Starbucks or some other large brand, tailor what you’re saying to your audience by tying it into your business or your customer base in some way.
Ryan Family Amusements used both humor and personalization.
Do it Quickly
Nobody wants to read upsetting news in novel form. They want to know what’s going on, how it will impact them and their future. If this information that you’re putting together may change, tell them that.
However, if you know that what you really need to tell them is unavoidable, don’t give it to them in pieces. For example, don’t say you’re shutting down temporarily because someone tested positive for COVID if you’re really planning on shutting down for good. While you may not be ready to deliver the true information, a lie can impact your ability to connect to your customers in the future. Be as honest as you’re able to given the circumstances.
If you’re communicating this announcement through an email list, get right to the point. Don’t spend 20 paragraphs talking about all the good things you remember. There’s plenty of time for that later. If you’re delivering bad news to someone, just give it to them.
If what you’re communicating is merely unpleasant, but not devastating, you might consider using a humorous approach. A lot of businesses have adopted this form of communication when it comes to delivering messages about asking customers to wear a mask.
Put it Everywhere in Multiple-media Formats
“I didn’t know that,” is a common complaint when someone has been told bad news. That is why if you’re delivering difficult information, you want to put it on all platforms in multiple formats such as:
- The top fold or banner of your website. You may even consider adding a pop up depending on the severity of what you’re communicating. If you choose to do a pop up, you don’t want that to be your only method of communicating the news as some people use very sophisticated pop-up blockers. But it is a good way to get the attention of most people.
- Live stream your news on Facebook.
- Add the video to Instagram.
- Place an announcement on LinkedIn if it’s a formal announcement like a business closing or merger. If it’s simply that you are shutting down for a few weeks due to COVID exposure, LinkedIn is not necessary.
- Notify our chamber of commerce. The chamber often refers customers to businesses. Plus, if the news is COVID-related, we have a Facebook page that can help you get your message out to the community. We may also be able to help you navigate the difficulties you’re communicating either directly or by helping place you in touch with a professional in our community.
- Add it to your Facebook and Instagram stories.
- Send the information to your email list.
- Give a gift/swag/promotional item that reinforces the message.
2020 has been a communication challenge for many of us. But communicating with your audience is one of the most important things you can do to instill trust and build a relationship.
Never withhold disappointing information or a difficult message. In today’s hyper-social world, it is difficult to keep information secret. If your customers hear about it from another source, the trust you’ve built with them will decline.