Corporate communications during coronavirus – part II

The organisations governing and overseeing the financial and public markets are being flexible with companies. But with that flexibility comes confusion, which companies are attempting to reduce by communicating to stakeholders through press releases and updates to their websites.

Their success in relaying the information is debatable because while the information might all be there, in black and white, there are important aspects that are missing. Corporates must remember that their shareholders are humans who are being affected not just professionally but also personally.

Below are key points to keep in mind when updating your investors, be it by RNS, social media post, video or a telephone call.

The cornerstone of crisis communications is consistency. In a time of uncertainty, your shareholders need to know that you are present and accessible. The best way to do this is by being regular and consistent with your messages.

Often, corporates want to hold off on communicating until they have all the answer or a certain issue has been resolved. Though understandable, in times of crisis, patience is not a virtue. In fact, while in good times no news is good news, in more challenging times no news conjures up the worst in people’s minds. To prevent this from happening, consistent communication is needed.

Your message must be concise. This is not the time to be speaking in convoluted sentences. You can use George Orwell’s six rules for writing from his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” as a guide.

Be clear about the challenges you face within the context of your shareholders’ concerns. The FRC created a webpage dedicated to COVID-19 information. It highlights investors’ key concerns such as liquidity, resilience, cash reserve, and risks. When you are creating your key messages, know exactly how you’re going to speak clearly to each of your challenges. This is also a chance to be clear on where you expect to go from here. If you have sound fundamentals and expect to weather the storm, make sure that resonates.

Lastly, compassion also has a place in crises. Your shareholders are more than just companies and funds that bought shares in your company. They are people with mortgages, children’s university tuition, and plans for retirement. And because COVID-19 is more than a financial crisis and people are facing their own mortality (as well as that of their loved ones) it is important to remember empathy and compassion have a place in all of this.

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