How to handle COVID-19 as an SME owner

Covid-19 | Covid-19 Advice | How To | Reports
PHA Group – Neil McLeod

This is an unprecedented time for a lot of small businesses which face an uncertain future. They do not have the scale of operations as larger corporations, nor do they have the team’s advisors to help them navigate through the difficult days that lie ahead.

We’ve seen plenty of “A letter from our CEO” mailers dropping into our inboxes from big brands like Marriott International, MAC and The Body Shop. Sincere prose about how they’re handling this outbreak to ensure the safety of their staff and their customers. But what about the small businesses who aren’t in the mainstream consumer spotlight?

Now is a time more than ever for CEOs and Founders of these smaller firms to be heard. Whether you’re a company deep in the supply chain, a manufacturer or service provider, it doesn’t matter how behind the scenes you are – or how small you are – you must communicate with all key stakeholders.

This communication will act as a reassurance that your business will continue on, or, if in the unfortunate event you can no longer work due to COVID-19 government restrictions, its honest and clear communication to the people who need it the most.

These are the three things you should focus on within your comms constantly during this time:

Transparency

Now isn’t the time to hide your issues or sweep them under the rug. You should be providing transparent and clear advice to your staff on senior people who are self-isolating/have contracted COVID-19, clearly communicate to your workforce about any employees who have become furloughed and really take this time to be sincere. Your employees, stakeholders and customers know and understand that this is an unprecedented time, so any business decisions that must be made at this stage aren’t a show of weakness, but of necessity. Choose your wording carefully; be emotive not overly corporate and be sincere about how these decisions are making you feel. All of this will lead to better relationships down the line.

Stick to your values

Remember your own company values throughout the crisis. No one can blame you for the outbreak, but they will look at how you handled yourself and your business throughout, so stay true to everything you believe in and your company ethos. Now would be the wrong time to abandon that outlook. If your biggest asset is your company’s creativity, be creative with your comms; if your biggest asset is your people, make sure that they know that is still the case. Now is the time to be sure of yourself and your company’s identity.

Keep communicating

The world is different, but it hasn’t stopped turning and your key messages will be even more vital to you when this has passed. Until then, you should look to putting out weekly comms to your customers, employees and stakeholders, giving them vital updates on how you are handling the situation and any major changes that they should be aware of. Be sure to use all platforms as best you can; social media is indispensable at this time and offers a low-cost way to make sure that no one is left in the dark. It’s also a good platform to show your best practices via video and gives the opportunity for your content to be shared. Just because the world is in lockdown, doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to gain attention of potential new customers and stakeholders for when it opens again.

Neil McLeod is the Director of Strategic Communications at The PHA Group.

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