How to communicate with everyone in the corona crisis #WisdomWednesday
It’s been a few weeks now since corona has had the world in its grip, and we’re all trying to focus on the “new normal.” At Start it @KBC we fiercely believe in the future of startups and their ability to lead us into the post-corona era. That’s why from now on we’ll be publishing a blog every Wednesday to help everyone learn how to navigate the new challenges that have come up. In last week's blog, we touched on the importance of managing your cash flow in these uncertain times. This week, we'll dive into communication. We'll discuss some tips and tricks on how to interact with your team, customers and investors and everyone else involved with your company, inspired by advice from the Global Accelerator Network (GAN).
#1 Communicating with your team: be the calm in the storm
Wondering how to talk to your employees about the crisis? Concerned about how your message gets across to people? Bravo, you’re already half-way there: you’re conscious about how you communicate! These difficult times call for empathy and leadership. To make it through, we need to not just focus on surviving, but on being there for our community: the people who we depend on every day, and who depend on us.
Company leaders have an important role in setting the tone for the company and reducing anxiety among employees. When crises hit, people look up to their leaders for reassurance and clarity. Communicating clearly is key, and so is being present. Communicate regularly with everyone and make yourself available for questions and concerns.
“Above all, show compassion and understanding for the tough times people are going through.”
Things are changing from day to day, so you’ll have to make and communicate decisions quickly based on the information at hand. Tone is essential: on the one hand, you want to show that you understand the urgency and concerns, and that you’re doing your best to address them. On the other, it’s vital to radiate calm and not to fuel panic. Most importantly, you want to show employees that you have their back: you’re doing your best to make sure everyone can keep working while keeping them safe. You may not have all the answers, but you’re engaged and optimistic. Above all, show compassion and understanding for the tough times people are going through.
Let your voice be heard regularly and post your messages everywhere people can see them, be they physical or virtual. You can use email, your company intranet, messaging platforms like Slack, or social media. This is how we at Start it @KBC are doing it!
You may be waiting on clarity from the government or other sources of information, but don’t let too much time pass before updating your employees: it’s more important to communicate regularly then to give the full picture. Check in with your team at least once a week. Try to get a clear view of how they are managing and where they need support. Finally, being reassuring doesn’t mean being unrealistic. What people suffer from most is uncertainty, so if you can, try to give your employees a concrete, data-driven view of the situation.
#2 Communicating with your customers: don’t focus on selling, but on gaining trust
This is not the time to fall off your customers’ radar. To get your company through this crisis, communicating with your customers is a high priority. Be considerate of the fact that everyone is facing difficulties right now, so it’s not about selling. Showing concern and awareness for everyone’s situation is key. At the same time, people at home are longing for normalcy and community. You can create a sense of togetherness and build a foundation for the future by bringing customers and other startups together around your brand. Show what your company is all about, including solidarity and creativity. Ask yourself, what are you putting out there? Anxiety and opportunism, or optimism and ingenuity? The trust you build now won’t be forgotten after the crisis.
Of course buying behavior has changed, and a lot of companies are freaking out. Seeing those sales drop off a cliff can take your breath away. It’s understandable to be worried, but you don’t want to sabotage yourself by focusing on the short term. It can help to shift from a panic mindset to a focus on retention: what do your customers need at this moment? How can you meet those needs, so that they’ll stick around when things get better again? Above all, show empathy. At Start it @KBC we’re incredibly proud to see so many of our startups turning their focus to giving back and making a positive impact.
“Communicate honestly about what you can and can’t deliver right now. This is key to building the trust your company will depend on.”
If business is slow right now, use this time well to reach out and get to know your (potential) customers better. Find out how they have been impacted and think about how you can adapt your product or service. Invest your time in customer-centric strategies and building relationships. Take a careful look at the ads and campaigns you had running already. Are they appropriate for this moment? If not, scrap them for now and flag their messages as “what not to do.” Instead, communicate in ways that are useful to your customers, whether it be practical information (possible delays, limited offer) or your approach and positive messages. No matter what, communicate honestly about what you can and can’t deliver right now.This is key to building the trust your company will depend on.
#3 Communicating with your investors: transparency is everything
As Start it @KBC founder Lode Uytterschaut said in one of our previous posts, it’s important to communicate often and transparently with your investors. With the investment climate becoming more challenging, it’s also crucial to ask yourself if you have the resources to spend more time looking for investments while running your company.
“Try to stay optimistic: things are still happening.”
The impact of the crisis depends on the product and the type of investor, with strategic investment taking the bigger hit. While there’s definitely a slowdown, there are opportunities opening up as well. Tech that can help tackle the crisis or set us up for a more contact-free future is suddenly in the spotlight. Others may have to focus more on the long game, and push harder to prove themselves. Try to stay optimistic: things are still happening. Just look at the Belgian startup Collibra, a unicorn that still managed to raise $112 million during these tough times.
What’s certain is that startups are going to have to adapt their strategies to get investors on board. Investors are going to need extra convincing about the risk they’re taking, or get higher returns to compensate. They are going to want to see a business model that takes the post-corona reality into account, backed by updated projections. That includes your burn rate in the new situation as well as your “lifeboat strategy” if the economy is down for a longer period. Bottom line: respond to the short term, but prepare for the long term. The way you communicate when things are down, is going to determine how you come up again.
Do you have any other communication wisdom to share? Let us know!