“Stay safe”: a month where communication is more important than ever

Pebble on the ground, painted blue with the message: "To the people who find this, stay safe."

Spotted in our local park.

Who would have thought that a month ago we were cheerfully sharing handwashing memes and now we are in lockdown?

A few weeks ago…

My husband didn’t know what PPE meant (I did, because I used to work for the Health and Safety Executive).

I thought I’d be fine working from home, because I do it all the time.

And I thought that Skype was what people used for conference calls.

How things change. This month I’ve attended:

  • church in a chatroom
  • a YouTube pub quiz
  • a speed networking meetup via Zoom.

In  a time of crisis, it almost feels as if I shouldn’t be writing this monthly roundup. But there are some things that can still be “business as usual” and this is one of them.

This is where I usually look at the past month from the point of view of communications. And there’s a lot to think about in that respect.

There are lessons to be learnt about crisis communications and consistent messaging. Lessons about reputation management. Lessons about networking for the common good. And how much we rely on the internet. But now is not the time. Not for me, anyway.

There are other, everyday lessons to be learnt. Lessons for businesses.

People are realising that supermarkets can’t always meet all their needs. Some are turning to small, independent local businesses, some of which are now doing home deliveries.

If that’s your business, you might want to think about your own marketing.

I visited the website of one local farm shop and they still had their Christmas order form on their homepage. On Facebook, they’re just posting cute animal photos of their livestock, as if things are normal. It would help, at least, if they acknowledged the situation and how they can help.

Meanwhile, my local fair trade shop has updated their information about opening hours and veg box arrangements on both their website and Facebook (with a request to phone them in case things change). They also respond promptly to messages.

I’ve also seen a surge in Facebook and Twitter adverts for grocery items that we usually take for granted.  It’s important here to get the balance between offering something genuinely helpful and appearing opportunistic.

Yes, the Facebook advert for mail-order toilet paper was useful. Anyone using the words “immune system” and “hydrating” – especially if the product is an expensive sports drink – not so much.

In other news

It feels like a long time ago now, but on 11th March I received an email from Oxfam with the subject line ‘DOUBLE your impact this Mother’s Day’.

Like many people who have lost their mothers, I find this kind of message upsetting, so I wrote to them. I pointed out politely that many organisations now offer the option for supporters/customers to opt out of Mother’s Day mailings, and that they might consider doing the same.

Within 24 hours they replied to say: “As a direct result of your feedback, we are now talking with the relevant team to ensure that we can add a function to our supporter database system that will allow individuals to be opted-out of Mother/Father’s day communications such as the one you received.”

They started the email with some kind words about my mother, and they ended it: “Thank you so much for helping us to improve the experience of all of our supporters, we really appreciate it.”

That’s the way to communicate with your supporters.

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2 comments on ““Stay safe”: a month where communication is more important than ever
  1. Stephanie Nolan says:

    Love it Penny. From your old pal in Ireland, Steph