During times of uncertainty, it is important to keep lines of communication open. But how honest should business owners be with their clients, customers, shareholders, board members and contractors about their struggles in this time of crisis?

Mina Radhakrishnan

:Different co-founder

LinkedIn

We’ve been really open with our property owners from the get-go, especially with communicating our policies, including how our rent guarantee works and explaining things we can’t do at the moment, given the situation we’re all in.

When you’re in the business of managing properties, visiting the homes of thousands of Aussies is something you do day in, day out. From open homes, to routine inspections and maintenance requests, our field team needs to be in contact with tenants to get their jobs done, and this often includes face-to-face interaction.

With the outbreak, we’ve had to quickly adjust our approach and our property owners were the first to know. We’ve kept urgent tasks like leasing properties and open homes happening. But we are being respectful of tenants’ and owners’ decisions to close their homes for routine inspections. We’ve implemented additional health and safety measures to ensure we’re doing everything we can to keep our owners, tenants and field team safe and healthy.

No matter the industry, being upfront and honest with your customers is vital to keeping their trust, even when you don’t always have the best news to share. Our honesty has been appreciated and our field team has received positive feedback for the way they’ve been navigating their work.

With our head office team spread across Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast), keeping communication lines open has always been a priority for us, and recent days have really shown how crucial having a solid communication process is for keeping your business operating as normal as possible in times of great uncertainty in the community.

Jason Andrew

SBO director and head of growth

LinkedIn

In times of uncertainty, you should always ‘over-communicate’ with your key stakeholders.

It’s important that your communication method and style is not of the panic and hysteria that we are seeing in the supermarkets.

Your role as a CEO is to remain calm, composed and provide confidence to stakeholders that there is a plan to manage any economic volatility.

Yes, your plan may not be great, and that’s OK. Because you may not have all the answers at this stage.

The objective is to articulate the risks and issues you’re facing and then offer an approach on how you’re dealing with them. This will give your key stakeholders the context to be in a position to help you.

Lucy Liu

Airwallex co-founder and president

LinkedIn  |  Twitter

It’s a troubling time for many of us. No one is feeling great about the current situation. Communication is so powerful at a time like this; it can provide relief and confidence, or increase panic and doubt.

Simplicity, honesty and sincerity are fundamental in any messages you put out to your customers and stakeholders. Dishonesty is never an option. Reassurance is important, but it must be backed by meaningful guidance and support. Be honest about the issues you are facing and your plan of action to work through it. Have a solution ready to go to alleviate these worries.

With the news cycle and inboxes dominated by COVID-19 topics, use your company’s communications channels wisely and make sure your contribution is either helpful or imperative. Don’t add noise to what is already an overwhelming and confusing public debate.

Vu Tran

Vu Tran

GO1 co-founder and head of growth

LinkedIn  

When it comes to communicating challenges to key stakeholders in a business, whether it be customers, staff or shareholders, the issues are not the challenges that arise in times of crisis but how we communicate them to these groups.

How I approach problems and challenges at GO1.com is often influenced by my experience as a doctor. When breaking bad news, such as telling someone they have cancer, we are taught some key principles to guide our communication, one of the most important of which is delivering with clarity and empathy.

It is important to deliver clear, honest messages without ambiguity or hyperbole.

No matter who you are dealing with, honesty is often always appreciated so long as it comes from a point of empathy and compassion for how that information affects that person or group of people.

Take your own feelings towards the situation and put them aside. Put yourself in their shoes, think about how they would feel, how you would want to be communicated to and then deliver accordingly.

I won’t write further about the obvious value that honesty has when it comes to legal matters arising from ensuring honest communication with  staff, customers and shareholders let alone the impact on morale and productivity of dishonest or even arguably worse, ambiguous communication.

At the end of the day honesty is the best policy. A cliché. But true.

Mark Forbes

Icon Reputation director of reputation 

LinkedIn

How every business communicates through a crisis, internally and externally, has a critical impact on reputation, goodwill, the capacity to survive a crisis, and even thrive beyond it.

Messaging should be clear, consistent, factual and honest. This doesn’t mean airing your deepest, darkest fears. It does mean being upfront about the issues and reassuring stakeholders that you are working through them.

Identify your core messages. These should be consistent across communication platforms and audiences. Any inconsistencies are liable to be exposed and undermine confidence.

Additional messaging should be tailored for each audience. Staff will want to know if their jobs are safe, shareholders that their investment is secure, clients and customers if you will continue to trade.

This is an opportunity to explain and engage. Sacrifices may be needed and burdens can be shared.

Finally, the critical element of crisis comms is they are not one-way. Ensure you listen to how your audiences respond, you may pick up some great survival tips along the way.

NOW READ: Online retail explosion, pay-to-view conferences and a cleaning service boom: Twenty-one ways business will shift due to the COVID-19 pandemic

NOW READ: Right now, the only certainty is uncertainty. So what’s one change you’ve recently made to better equip your business for the challenging economic times ahead?

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