Today’s business leaders are facing what may go down as one of the greatest communications challenges in history.
Business won’t get rolling again until you build confidence among your customers and your team. But the reality is that there are still a lot of legitimate reasons out there for concern. So what’s the right message?
Start with this: Never fight the facts.
When facing a tough reality, it’s human nature to want to “make it go away.” But trying to convince people a problem doesn’t exist is always the least effective way of dealing with it.
Instead, hit reality head on. Listen to your customers and your employees and find out what they need to know. Instead of making a counter argument, honor their concerns and figure out what you can do to address them. And tell that story.
At Fleur de Lis Communications, we recently completed a campaign for the Kentucky Restaurant Association, surrounding the reopening of in-person dining on May 22nd.
From the start, we knew the restrictions weren’t being lifted because COVID-19 had gone away. Instead, the new guidelines were about striking a balance between best practices for preventing the spread, and the need for restaurants and their employees to earn a living - safely.
The key for us was going to be telling that story realistically, without overly optimistic assurances about absolute safety. We absolutely didn’t want to deliver any version of “Come on in, the water’s fine!”
After talking with the Association’s CEO and some of its members, we knew they understood that better than anyone. So we worked with them to identify the positive messages we all could stand behind:
First, we could educate diners about all the new procedures and safety protocols restaurants would be using. And we drove home the point that restaurants - more than just about anyone - are used to being held accountable on safety standards.
Second, we could explain the economics that made this step critical. As an industry, restaurants are Kentucky’s second largest employer - and all those workers eventually need a way to put food on their own tables.
Lastly, we made an emotional appeal - reminding people of the role that restaurants have played in their lives, and in the overall quality of life. Again, this wasn’t about convincing people to dismiss their concerns. It was just about reminding people what’s a stake - and why it was important to start moving forward again.
Just about every industry finds itself facing some version of this dilemma right now. But instead of pushing an alternate narrative, spend your time telling your story - in the most direct, forthright, and, yes, positive way possible.
It’s hardly a revolutionary concept - but it may be more important now than ever before.