Depending on where you operate your business, you’re likely assembling a reopening plan, following every local, state and federal order requirement, rehiring and training employees, revising your menu or product offering and re-engaging your supply chain.
But, at the end of the day, your most important challenge still lies ahead: instilling confidence in your customers to actually get them through the door, get “butts in seats” or convert a sale.
Confidence in what, exactly?
Confidence in the safety precautions you’ve taken, confidence in your product, your employees, your vendors and, just as important, confidence in your brand. In a time of crisis and anxiety, people don’t just want to know that you’re checking the legal boxes — they want to know what your brand stands for, what organizations you’ve aligned yourself with and where you’ve lent a hand. They want to see your personality, your creativity and your values on full display. Whether you’re looking for media coverage, social media impressions, or relying on advertising or email marketing to get the word out, you’ll need a strategy to communicate these crucial messages in a timely way.
Here’s a list of things to consider when developing your reopening messaging to clearly communicate safety measures while staying true to your brand.
Social Media usage has reached unprecedented levels during “The Great Quarantine” (we’re workshopping that name). More and more people are checking social channels for their news first, so this may be your most valuable communication resource, depending on your industry and your customer type.
Content Calendars & Scheduling Tools
Think ahead and schedule future posts online, but try to take it a week or two at a time. Now more than ever, things are changing by the hour and minute - and the last thing you want is outdated social content.
Be mindful of what we call cadence, the pattern and spacing of your messages, so you’re over-communicating (when necessary, as with safety messages) without overwhelming your audience. You should try to deliver a variety of types of messaging (safety, logistics, menus/products, promos/activations, partnerships, etc.) and maintain a steady rhythm of communication.
The calendar can always be adjusted, but scheduling a week or two out allows you to focus more on the “big things” like keeping your employees and customers safe. Spacing out your messages also leaves room for last-minute additions when necessary, without overdoing it. Using tools like Sprout Social, Hootsuite and Planoly can help you simplify and streamline without compromising your message.
Confidence is contagious. Feature customers and employees having — yes — a great time. Display sensitivity and caution of course, but illustrating your team inching toward normalcy with smiling faces, helping hands and satisfied customers--in between messages about safety--will help build community confidence.
Engagement is Key
Simply posting is not enough. What about people’s questions, concerns and even praise? It’s important to acknowledge your followers, no matter the message. Respond to comments and inquiries, whether it’s a simple “thank you,” or it requires more of a conversation. If a customer has a concern, invite them to take the conversation offline — and make sure it comes from a real person. Provide a direct email, a direct phone number, and even sign off with your name. People want to feel seen and heard, just like you do.
As you’re building out a communications strategy, keep your employees at the forefront. Their customer service is going to be paramount to easing fears once you get people through the door. Need some tips on creating effective employee communications? We’ve got a blog post for that!
Staff/Town Hall Meetings
First, figure out a way to safely hold these meetings regularly - you may need to get logistically creative and let your conference rooms gather a little dust. Carefully craft your talking points for these meetings. Allow time and space for employees to share their ideas. They are on the front lines, engaging with your customers, and they want to know you value their input. Share good news and wins, and give praise!
Will your company re-emerge as a community leader, partnering with appropriate or like-minded non-profits? Remember, your employees are your most important brand ambassadors. Engage with organizations that mean the most to them, partner with groups that directly impact your employees, their families and communities. Such partnerships will provide the opportunity for much needed employee engagement and support - and your team will sing about it from the rooftops.
Safety, Logistics and Staff
Not only is it important to communicate to your staff and take precautions to protect them and ease concerns, but you need to let your customers and followers know that you’re doing so, too. Building trust is key — both internally and externally — and the consumer wants to feel confident in supporting a company that supports its own.
Consider all regulations set forth by the state, but then think, how can we go above and beyond? Do we have the space to distance our operations? If not, how can we make this work? We are all navigating this together, and both employees and customers are going to be understanding of cautious change, but it’s important to be prepared and organized in that change as soon as you invite people in.
Will employees need to be medically cleared before returning to work? Will their hours be reduced initially? Will you bring back all of your furloughed staff right away or in phases? Do you have open positions that need to be filled? Will you take temperatures upon every employee’s arrival?
Products & Offerings
Will all of your services, items, menus, be offered initially, or slowly implemented? Is your supply chain at 100 percent? How is the company going to address the losses?
Will there be a transition period? For instance, will you be limiting the number of people in specific areas, how will you keep count, who will stop the incoming guests, how will current capacity be communicated?
Do you need to install hand sanitizer dispensers in public areas? If a hotel or restaurant, should you consider new menus, made of paper and disposable, or laminated and cleaned with each use? What materials are being used for take-out items? Do your front and back of house employees need to wear gloves all the time? Will you need to communicate internally and externally what cleaning has been done to the property, in accordance to potential new WHO and CDC standards?
Does your business need exterior signage stating, “NOW OPEN”? What about internal signage encouraging social distancing? Do your staff and public restrooms need new hand washing signage? What about a few feel-good signs showing the community spirit of re-birth and thanking your customers for their support? Also consider antimicrobial laminate, ﬂoor graphics for traffic control and informational/educational signage. Read more about our insights around a signage strategy.
Plan for the Worst
“Wait, what? We were just feeling the positivity over here.” It’s hard to think about, but you need a communications strategy in place for any scenario, and someone to manage your message with the media the moment it happens.
- What if an employee or customer gets sick? Make a plan for both — prepare internal and external messaging addressing the situation and know who to call as soon as it happens. Will you ensure all employees get tested? How will you logistically make that happen? It’s important to think about it before you’re in a bind.
- What if a supply chain or vendor is compromised?
- What happens if the country shuts down again? What did we learn from the ﬁrst experience?
- Does your spokesperson need media training?
Once you’ve answered these questions, prepped your messaging strategy and put all of your logistical and safety measures in place, take a deep breath and remember this: None of us have done this before. We’re all figuring it out, day by day, together.
If you’re looking for a partner to help you strategize, supply your signage or implement your communications across your marketing channels, Phase 3 is here to help.