The Covid-19 pandemic has been a gruelling test on so many levels. As businesses in the wedding sector we have been pushed to the absolute limit. We are wired to plan ahead yet none of us has known precisely what or how or when we should, or can, be operating again. Amidst the turmoil, many venues have worried what they should be saying and how to say it; how they can communicate honestly and openly to their stakeholders while protecting their own reputation.
Over the past three decades, we have helped many clients weather storms of varying size and severity. Admittedly, the sheer scale of woes dealt out by this crisis we find ourselves in is unmatched. However, the fundamental principles of communicating in uncertain times and, more pertinently, communicating out of it can be achieved by following a formula that ensures your brand remains on message, is always authentic and maintains an identity that others want to associate with.
Chapter has developed a six-point charter which should form the basis of any successful communication plan for venues exiting a pandemic.
The key stages are summarised as follows:
Be realistic on where you stand and what you can do
Gain clarity on your position by refining your sources of information to government websites, national news outlets and trusted industry platforms such as Coco Wedding Venues.
Then ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it safe for us to return to work and can we operate in a responsible and practical way under the current guidance?
- Can we add value to our customers right now?
- Is it commercially viable to un-furlough team members and resume operations?
- Who in the business is best positioned to perform required tasks?
Determine who needs to know what
Split your stakeholders into as few groups as possible. Typically, these would be employees, customers, supplier/channel partners and service providers.
Decide when is the best time to communicate to them based on the role they play in your business and consider the information that each group will need to know. It’s important to recognise that each sub-group will require a nuanced message that is tailored to them and some people will fall outside of a particular category or may require special attention, so this is not a one-fits-all approach.
Define your processes internally
Whilst it is the responsibility of the employer to create a safe working environment, employees should be consulted on matters that will impact their day-to-day working lives. You will need to discuss options such as whether they are comfortable wearing PPE for prolonged periods of time, if required, and how shift working might affect their personal commitments, for example. Conversations may be delicate and at times challenging but wholly necessary if you are to emerge from this with a workforce that remains engaged with the common goal.
Once your key processes are agreed and internally accepted, they should be refined and simplified. Draft some wording that is sensitive yet clear, create graphics and diagrams where required and familiarise yourself with your new way of operating. It is unclear how long we’ll all be operating in this new world so expect these processes to be regularly adapted and amended over a prolonged period of time.
Formulate the message
At a time of crisis, more than ever businesses need to demonstrate empathy by showing an understanding of the concerns facing employees, customers and the wider industry. The wedding and events industry is facing tremendous financial strain, and the people that rely on it are fearful of being swept along in the storm. Be open about the severity of the impact on your business but appreciate that it’s not only you this has hurt.
When you are trying to pack so much into a message it can be easy to forget your tone of voice. Staying true to your tried and tested brand of voice will be more authentic and in turn believable. This can be as simple as considering how you start a message, or the sort of words you use. Like people, it’s obvious when brands are being inauthentic and this only happens when they are panicking or worse, trying to hide something.
Tell your story
Consistency and cohesion are key at this time, so schedule your messages to reach each channel at the optimum time. Your event clients or regulars will likely be unhappy to read about a dramatic change in your structure on social media before being told personally about it. Check that any pre-planned advertisements, social media posts or scheduled pieces of content are still relevant to where you are now and what you need to say.
Don’t forget that your website – your shop window to the world – needs to be updated and relevant. You don’t need to redesign it completely, although that may be required if the nature of your business has changed substantially, but you should have key updates and critical information clearly visible.
This is an opportunity to tell your story about how you coped with the crisis, how you helped others, how your outlook has changed and what the new ‘you’ will look like. Don’t be afraid to be candid about the struggle; there is no shame in saying it has been tough as long as you acknowledge the challenges others have faced too.
Reflect, refine and redress
The whole process of communicating during and out of issues and crises is fluid. The final step is to evaluate how you’re doing through such means as surveys, engagement reviews and responses, and actual endorsements by key constituencies. Answering this one critical question should be your guide: “Have the steps you have taken demonstrably improved your standing as a business in your stakeholder’s eyes?”
Following these steps will not only help your company manage the transition from crisis to some form of normal operation, it will also help establish you as positively and proactively planning for the future.
Thank you for reading.
Chapter specialises in PR, branding and design for the weddings, parties, hospitality and lifestyle sectors. For more information on our services, please contact email@example.com or visit www.chaptercommunications.co.uk.