Having an effective small business communications plan can be the difference between sinking or surviving during a major crisis. As every organization is constantly at risk for reputational damage, small businesses should be prepared to address problems as quickly as possible to gain community trust.

For advice and business tips from communications leaders on developing an effective small business communications plan during a crisis, keep reading. 

TL;DR: Small Business Communications Post COVID-19

  • Tip 1: Act Quickly
  • Tip 2: Acknowledge The Problem
  • Tip 3: Build Company Spirit
  • Tip 4: Be Transparent About Your Brand
  • Tip 5: Band Together With Competitors
  • Tip 6: It’s OK To Say You Don’t Know
  • Tip 7: Be Consistent With Your Brand
  • Tip 8: Communicate With Customers Every Chance You Get 
  • Tip 9: Build Trust At Every Touchpoint
  • Tip 10: Collect Best Practices For The Future
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Tip 1: Act Quickly

“You have to act quickly, and you have to own it,” said Rosemary Ravinal, an executive communications coach, who participated in the #BizHack Live Crisis Conversations During COVID-19 webinar. 

Silence should never be an option in response to a crisis. Small businesses need to make quick decisions. Many organizations often fail to act promptly when confronted with an issue, and the result can be disastrous. 

For example, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the motherload of mismanaged crises, Ravinal said. 

As one of the worst environmental disasters in history, thousands of gallons spilled into the Gulf of Mexico while the company tried to blame others. 

Since the petroleum company failed to address the problem quickly, it suffered more than $62 billion in damages. 

Tip 2: Acknowledge The Problem

To gain your customers’ support and trust, you must acknowledge the crisis to show that you care. The perfect time to take inventory of what matters most is as soon as possible. 

“We are in a situation that is unprecedented in every way,” Ravinal said. “The last time something of this global magnitude happened, it was the 1918 Spanish flu.” 

As reality is constantly shifting, companies should stay vigilant to keep up with new and changing guidelines. Providing accurate and valuable resources to customers will help improve your overall small business strategy. 

Dave Bricker, speaker, presentation coach, and messaging consultant who participated in the webinar, shared some advice on how small businesses can adapt by taking the opportunity to grow from change. 

“Don’t sit around waiting for the future to turn back into the past,” Bricker said. “The world has changed. Change is tough, but this is an opportunity.”

Tip 3: Build Company Spirit

While developing an effective small business communications plan, it is important to consider employees’ and other stakeholders’ needs. 

“Create a team, don’t go it alone,” Ravinal said. “As the captain of your ship, you need a good crew.”

Alice Horn, another participant in the webinar, shared how to be strategic with employees during times of hardship.

“Dust off your strategic plan and put everyone to work on longer-term goals,” Horn said. “Bring the team together and help them feel confident about the company’s future.” 

Tip 4: Be Transparent About Your Brand

To add value to your brand, be transparent about how the pandemic has affected your business. Customers are very receptive to companies who are honest and truthful. 

“It’s imperative to be authentic, compassionate, and service-oriented at a time when panic is setting in. Don’t sell, serve,” said Crace Capwell, a participant in the webinar. 

Don’t fill your messaging with noise, Ravinal added.

Developing a landing page on your website can help inform customers of what you’re currently doing in response to the crisis. It is important to share what really needs to be addressed while adapting your small business strategy.

“Communicate your needs with empathy and respect. We are all going through stress,” said Maria Daniela Machado, a participant in the webinar. “We all need to give something and get something from others.”

Tip 5: Band Together With Competitors

If your industry was hit particularly hard by COVID-19, this is not the time to double down and crush your competition. Now is the time to come together with your competitors and brainstorm new ways to promote effective communication strategies. 

“Restaurants are coming together,” Ravinal said. 

Now is the time to make connections for what is down the road, Ravinal added. 

Having conversations with competitors will help you establish your voice within the community. As communication should be others oriented, collaborating with competitors will also help you to reach a broader audience. 

Tip 6: It’s OK To Say You Don’t Know

When the unknown is becoming the new norm, it’s OK to say you don’t know the answer to something. With so much going on in the world right now, it’s important to understand what you can and cannot control. 

“It’s OK to say you don’t know,” Ravinal said. 

Tip 7: Be Consistent With Your Brand

To help establish your brand identity during times of hardship, it’s important to stay consistent with the products or services you offer. Consider what is essential to your brand and think of ways to add it to your small business communications plan. 

“I’ve been monitoring a lot of local businesses, and they’re not consistent,” Ravinal said. “What appears in one particular platform is not echoed by another.” 

Documenting your actions along the way will also help you stay consistent. By staying true to your brand, you can benchmark and reinvent your business as the new standard. 

Tip 8: Communicate With Customers Every Chance You Get 

To have an effective small business communications plan, connect with your customers regularly, and let them know that they’re not alone. 

“Stay connected with your customers,” Ravinal said. “Maintain conversation in every way possible.”

Social media is a great way to communicate with customers, and many small businesses use Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Twitter to build their presence online. 

You should also pay attention to what you are saying, and when you are saying it—customers won’t trust a tone-deaf company. 

Tip 9: Build Trust At Every Touchpoint

To make customers feel like their interests are being accounted for, customer-oriented language should be used at every touchpoint. 

“People are hypersensitive right now,” Ravinal said. “You have to be super respectful and show compassion.” 

Tip 10: Collect Best Practices For The Future

By following these small business tips, it’s easy to reimagine what the future will bring. As you’re developing your small business communications plan for the new year, make sure you’re collecting best practices to help you handle crises. 

Want more tips? On Wednesdays, join BizHack Academy for our FREE #Bizhacklive Webinars and hear experts discuss the latest and best small business marketing strategies. For a list of upcoming events, click here.