Communicating during a crisis is hard. It's complex. And it requires a nuanced way of thinking. While none of us have experienced a global pandemic like COVID-19 before, many of us in HR and employer branding have gone through other crises and we know one thing is for sure—what you do now and how you communicate it, will have a lasting impact on your brand.
The task of communicating to your customers, employees, candidates, and community partners may seem daunting, regardless of the message. We know it can feel more comfortable to take a broad approach to communications or to fall-back on generic messaging during this time. From social media messages to leaked internal communications, we’re seeing employers respond to COVID-19 in many different ways—inspiring, captivating, good, bad, and ugly. So when you do communicate, please keep in mind three pieces of advice to avoid crisis communication pitfalls.
1. Speak up rather than staying silent.
Not doing or saying anything seems like the safest bet. If you hide, no one can find you, right? It’s a tactic that may work initially, but people will take notice, and it’ll happen sooner than you think. Everyone is craving information and seeking it out. With unemployment skyrocketing, candidates and employees need to hear from organizations about their current state of employment. Even if the news isn't good, the more honest, empathetic, and forthcoming you are when you share it, the more you'll be respected.
Of course, your lawyers may have guidance that encourages a “less is more” approach and your leadership team will want to avoid scaring investors. Listen to and partner with your legal, marketing, public relations, and leadership teams on communications and those communications must include information about employment and what people can expect. Authentically sharing a careers message can be done safely. It’s not communicating about the employment experience during this time that’s unsafe for your brand.
2. Give context, not desperation, to your call to action.
Whether we have kids or pets, we all know what begging looks and sounds like: pleading, exasperated, and excitable. When we need something badly, we lose our composure. At exaqueo, we call it “breathless language” and we feel there’s never been a place for it—especially not now. And yet, we’re seeing it across the recruitment marketing and employer brand landscape. Some organizations have even abandoned their employer brand messaging for this type of language, going right to the ask in a way that's desperate and without context.
Now hiring! Great opportunity! Apply now! We need you!
If you are hiring now, let us be clear: that's fantastic and we applaud you. The workforce needs jobs and there is no shortage of people looking for them right now. But just because you are hiring, doesn't mean you should abandon the ability to be honest about the opportunity, clear about the role, and authentic in your messaging. You don’t have to sound desperate, you have an urgent need and it can be messaged well. Authenticity works. And ultimately, that's what will save your organization in the long-term.
3. Create feelings of hope, not uncertainty.
People remember how you make them feel. There’s a lot of emotion in the journey of finding and keeping work. This was the case before COVID-19 and it will be the case when it passes. And that’s because work matters. It puts food on your table, a roof over your head, and gives you hope for the future. There’s enough uncertainty right now. Let jobseekers not only know if you’re hiring (or not), but also how the candidate experience has changed, what the employment experience is like, and what you’re doing to take care of your employees. Even if you’re not hiring, communicating openly about that will build trust and goodwill with candidates. And they won’t forget about you when you are hiring again.
As a talent acquisition or employer brand professional, you have the opportunity to make an impact on someone’s life with every message you send—now more than ever. Whether it’s a pop-up on your careers site, an automated note from your applicant tracking system, an email or a phone call, your message matters to the person receiving it. Your audience may be growing as more and more people are looking for work, but don’t let that be the reason you stop caring about why people should work at your organization.
You don’t have to communicate all of this on your own. If you are looking for crisis communication templates or additional assistance on how to respond during this time, visit exaqueo’s COVID-19 workforce resources page or contact our crisis response center for customized support.