In last week’s column, we looked at the results of choosing to advertise or not during economic downturns, and the results were pretty clear. Decade after decade, there was data that showed the brands that continued to communicate with their prospects and customers during a recession or the depression came out of that time with a stronger position, a dominant position in their category and were able to rebound much faster than the brands who stayed silent.

We know you should be talking to your prospects and customers, but how do you do with sensitivity to the current situation and in a way that your audience is actually receptive to hearing?

Now is not the time for a hard sell. But that doesn’t mean you should be silent. Here are the core tenants we should be wrapping our communication around right now.

Informative: Now is the time for us to keep every stakeholder informed. Don’t forget how vital your internal team is at this point. You can’t over-communicate with them. This is a time of uncertainty, which is disconcerting. The more certainty you can provide by consistent communications, the better.

Service-oriented: Be one of the helpers that everyone is looking for right now. How can you and your organization serve the community? You can and should be sharing useful information, tools and services. Don’t be shy about inviting your customers to participate in your acts of service. Everyone is looking for a meaningful way to give back.

Sincere and transparent: Everyone is on edge and highly sensitive to anyone trying to take advantage of the current crisis. Be very clear about your offers, motives, and any small print. Do not leave anything up for interpretation. You can lose your most loyal client right now if they misunderstand.

Emotionally intelligent: I’d like to think we’d always be sensitive about our audience’s current state, but it is mandatory right now. You don’t need to go on and on about the crisis. You don’t need to use up two-thirds of your message to thank others. You don’t need sad, somber music. But you do need to be mindful that everyone is feeling less certain, more tender, and a little tentative.

Flexible: Payment terms, pricing options, delivery models – everything in our world is upside down right now. You’re going to need to find ways to zig where you used to zag. There’s a silver lining to this demand for flexibility. It’s like a free research project. Pay attention to the new offerings that get the biggest positive response from your prospects and customers. Some of what we’re doing for clients now because of COVID-19 is going to stick. It may make what you do even more desirable.

Generosity: This isn’t so much about your pricing; it’s much more related to your attitude and spirit. Everyone around us is on an emotional tightwire. Things set them off faster; they’re quicker to judgment and emotional extremes. As you communicate with your team, your customers and your potential customers – tread lightly. Be generous with yourself. Now is not the time for corporate speak or being inflexible around the rules. 

The biggest mistake you can make right now is to stay silent. Your employees, clients and the people who would benefit from what you do all need to know you’re there. Your marketing needs to reassure them all that you’re stable, and you’re ready to help. It’s time to prove your leadership position by stepping out and stepping up.

The second biggest mistake is to communicate or sell in a tone-deaf way that suggests you’re not re-tooling how you’re doing business, given the world’s reality. Weave these five tenants through all of your marketing to ensure your audience can actually hear you.