Person being interviewed on camera

Eight Questions to Ask Before Communicating Right Now

One of the most press­ing ques­tions we’re all ask­ing our­selves right now in our com­mu­ni­ca­tions roles (not to men­tion in life) is, “When?”. Tim­ing that used to be clear and plans that used to be set, are no longer so. We’re see­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sion­als across indus­tries quick­ly adapt their mes­sag­ing, con­tent and PR strate­gies, align­ing their voice and com­pa­ny announce­ments with what the world needs to hear right now.

As they do that, we’re increas­ing­ly hear­ing ques­tions from clients regard­ing tim­ing: when it’s appro­pri­ate to reach out to media, when pre­vi­ous­ly sched­uled com­mu­ni­ca­tions should get paused or resumed, how to fill in the gaps in an oth­er­wise planned-out cal­en­dar and beyond. Here are eight ques­tions to ask your­self about your com­mu­ni­ca­tion that may lead you to bet­ter clar­i­ty on not only what to say, but when to say it:

  1. How is your indus­try media react­ing to or shift­ing because of the cri­sis? Many of the trade pub­li­ca­tions we work with on behalf of our clients are address­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic and its impact, but they’re also con­tin­u­ing to cov­er non-virus sto­ries. “Pay close atten­tion to how the media that reach­es your con­stituents is or isn’t chang­ing its focus. They may still be inter­est­ed in your pitch or bylined arti­cle if the top­ic falls out­side of COVID-19,” says BP Pres­i­dent Bri­an Bell­mont. “Things are evolv­ing at record-break­ing speeds, it seems. Dou­ble-check industry/national news right before you deliv­er, just in case something’s changed,” adds COO Jen Bell­mont.
  2. Is what you’re com­mu­ni­cat­ing help­ful? If so, share it. Account Super­vi­sor Megan Derkey says, “Peo­ple in gen­er­al are spend­ing more time on social media and watch­ing and read­ing the news right now, so you do have a chance to reach a broad­er audi­ence than normal.”
  3. Is what you’re shar­ing news­wor­thy? On the oth­er hand, you don’t want to just add to the noise right now. While we all feel like we have some­thing to say, the same rules for media rela­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tion still apply. “We’re con­sis­tent­ly hear­ing feed­back from media that to write good sto­ries, they still need mea­sur­able impact like data, client tes­ti­mo­ni­als and more – beyond just spokes­peo­ple to offer for com­ments,” adds Senior Account Exec­u­tive Michelle Cook.
  4. Have you told your employ­ees and key stake­hold­ers what­ev­er news you intend to share pub­licly? You don’t want your staff learn­ing about changes or devel­op­ments from the news or social media; they should hear it from you first.
  5. Would anoth­er chan­nel be more use­ful right now? Part­ner Shel­li Lis­sick advis­es: “If it’s not the right time to pitch to media, con­sid­er oth­er ways to reach your tar­get audi­ence like your blog, email, pod­casts, social media and more.”
  6. Who is the com­mu­ni­ca­tion com­ing from? “Is the com­mu­ni­ca­tion com­ing from the brand, or – as peo­ple are crav­ing human con­nec­tion and look­ing to hear direct­ly from lead­ers – could it be a more per­son­al mes­sage from a C‑suite leader?” asks Vice Pres­i­dent Brid­get Nel­son Mon­roe. “If you’re shar­ing updates on COVID-19-relat­ed ini­tia­tives, could those updates come from some­one close to the work itself, like a prod­uct engi­neer or a front line worker?”
  7. What approach is your local gov­ern­ment tak­ing in com­mu­ni­ca­tions? For local announce­ments, fol­low your local government’s lead. If the gov­er­nor is shar­ing an announce­ment at 2 p.m. local time, that’s prob­a­bly more impor­tant than your announce­ment, so hold off on shar­ing yours until later.
  8. Is your mes­sage com­pas­sion­ate? “Sen­si­tiv­i­ty is espe­cial­ly impor­tant right now and a good fil­ter to use on your owned chan­nels,” says Senior Account Exec­u­tive Sara Gras­mon. “Be aware of how what you’re post­ing on social media fits into the larg­er pic­ture, know­ing that peo­ple are more con­cerned than ever about health and safe­ty, so they may not be inter­est­ed in top­ics and posts that don’t fit into the cur­rent real­i­ty.” Megan Derkey adds, “Don’t use fear tac­tics; you have to under­stand what your audi­ence is going through.” You can find the right approach and tone to com­mu­ni­cate anything.”

The right mes­sage, at the wrong time, is the wrong mes­sage. “Read­ing the room is crit­i­cal,  now more than ever,” Shel­li Lis­sick sums up. Before you hit “send” or get too far down the plan­ning process, fil­ter your com­mu­ni­ca­tion through ques­tions like these, which can guide your team to bet­ter clar­i­ty on “when.”

For ways we can help with your cur­rent shift­ing needs, vis­it:

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