6 tips for communicating in uncertain times

In these times of uncertainty, it can be tricky to know how to play it with your communications. On the one hand, you don’t want to cause worry by seeming like you don’t really know what’s going on. On the other hand, taking a firm position on something that could change again at any minute might lead you to make false promises or commit to a course of action that is not right longer-term.

Coloured pencil tips around the edge of the word tips
Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

I often tell my clients that there is no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to communication, just more or less effective. While this is true, leaders and communication teams do need to think about how to make their activities effective at a time when so much is up in the air.

Here are my top tips for communicating in uncertain times:

  • Plan for a few possible scenarios and let your people know you are doing that. You don’t have to give them all the detail of all the plans, as this will easily become confusing. But a sense that you are doing something will feel reassuring to them. When the time is right you will be able to communicate why you chose this particular plan over any others you considered.

  • Anticipate the questions you think your people will ask and answer them in your communications. If you can’t answer them yet, acknowledge that you understand they want to know about a particular area and confirm that you will tell them when you can. It’s also a good idea to ask them what they want to know, rather than just guessing.

  • It’s okay to say you don’t know something. Your people don’t expect you to have all the answers straight away, especially when everything is so new and fast-changing. You do need to inspire confidence that you will find out the answers for them. And the answers you do provide need to feel reliable, based on appropriate evidence and information wherever possible.

  • Reassure people with what is known where you can. It can be easy to think everything is up in the air, especially at times that are new to us all. The reassurance you provide might be about how things will be handled, rather than the detail of what will happen if that’s the bit which isn’t yet clear.

  • Keep communicating regularly, even when there is nothing new to say. Don’t wait until you’ve got something different to talk about. Any gaps will be filled by rumour. Remind them that you’re still there and still working on it.

  • Finally, remember that people are overwhelmed right now and can’t take in too much information at any one time. Smaller chunks in an effective format will get through to them better than longer-form content. You will also need to repeat information and messages for those that missed them the first time (and second time).

  • How are you dealing with the challenges of communication in uncertain times? I’d love to hear about your tips – get in touch to tell me what’s working for you.

    And if you’d like to read more about communicating in uncertain times, my associate, Andrew Hesselden, has also written about this topic in his blog ‘When you don’t know…’.

    Until next time

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