• Mark Topley

The community communications of a responsible business

We're now in the midst of what the CMO and the Health Secretary have referred to as the worst part of the Pandemic. And as such, business need to both reflect and respect the fact that more and more people now know someone who has died from COVID, or whose life has been changed by one of the significant after effects.


We are very much connected to each other. As many have pointed out, we're in the same storm, but very different boats. Whatever vessel we're in, misjudging the mood and appearing insulated and making your communications all about you, is a dangerous mistake to make.


What do responsible communications look like?

Although we may be living in the 21st Century, the most effective communication in 2021 will be drawing on the ancient elements of story. And in particular, the importance of how we 'position' ourselves.


Don Miller, in his excellent book 'Building a Storybrand' says;


"In stories, events mark the beginnings and endings of our chapters. But if we look closer, we will see something else or, more accurately, somebody else. The events that define our chapters are often instigated or interpreted by mystical characters that help us along the way. In a story there are many names for these characters, but I choose to call them guides.


"If a hero solves her own problem in a story, the audience will tune out. Why? Because we intuitively know if she could solve her own problem, she wouldn’t have gotten into trouble in the first place. Storytellers use the guide character to encourage the hero and equip them to win the day... Frodo has Gandalf, Katniss has Haymitch, and Luke Skywalker has Yoda. Just like in stories, human beings wake up every morning self-identifying as a hero. They are troubled by internal, external, and philosophical conflicts, and they know they can’t solve these problems on their own. The fatal mistake some brands make... is they position themselves as the hero in the story instead of the guide."


Miller, Donald. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen . HarperCollins Leadership.


Miller goes on to point out that in order to position your business as the guide, we need to do two critical things in our communication:

  • Show empathy - we are people like you, we understand your challenges, and we know that you're fining this hard

  • Demonstrate authority - we know stuff, we have a plan, we can help you to overcome, and we will support you to do so.


How do we do this in practice?


Identification

I think one of the lost important things for authentic communication is to show the public who you really are. Show them that you are real people. This means showing that you're a real team rather than a series of stock images. It also means showing the human side of who you are - celebrating achievements, recognising contributions, highlighting who in your team can help with particular issues.


Inspire and encourage through your actions

Right now people need good news stories. Both to help them feel better, and also to answer the question 'does your business care?' This is something that almost 90% of people are asking according to Gallup research. So show how you're helping - mention the things you've tried to do both internally and externally to help in the pandemic effort. This could be donations of food, PPE or cash to organisations that really need it. The ways that you can help the vulnerable, or celebrating your team who are volunteering in the community.


You should also show your community who you are FOR. Profile local businesses and organisations through your social media, newsletter and on your website. This acts both as a means of encouraging trade as well as signposting people to the services they need.


Educate and instruct

Show how you help people professionally. Provide advice on handling the problems they face that you can help with. Give clear instruction that supports the pandemic response. During the pandemic, there have been so many conspiracy theories, hoaxes, and fake news stories that have circulated on social media. It’s important for your business to communicate clearly, authoritatively and consistently with accurate information to help to quell this damaging phenomenon.


Give people a plan

Don't make the mistake of leaving your reader or viewer asking ''what do I do next' when your blog. social media most or video is done. Give them a clear call to action, and a very straightforward way to engage.


We've seen so many examples of poor communication during the pandemic. One client pointed out that there have been 64 different messages so far.


Don't fall into this trap.


Keep your communication clear, simple and consistent. Position yourself as the guide, not the hero. Ensure you show empathy, demonstrate authority, and have a clear response mapped out. Make sure that who you really are comes through, help your community, and strengthen your business.

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