COVID-19 Communications: 3 WAYS WE CAN DO BETTER

By March 16, 2020 October 31st, 2020 No Comments

How many COVID-19 emails have you received in the last week? Judging by my own inbox, I’d venture to guess A LOT. As a communications professional, I’m impressed by the amount of outreach. From hotels to airlines to banks to retail chains, organizations are communicating to their employees and customers at a fairly good clip.

But here’s the miss: Volume and timing do not equal quality.

That’s because most of the COVID-19 communications content sounds the same, which usually means a few pat opening statements followed by a list of resources, tips, and links. I’m not saying those aren’t important (or legally required), but by now we all know to avoid crowds and visit the CDC website. Where’s the heart? Where’s the brand strategy? Where are the people?

Thankfully, I have encountered a few exceptions at BrightWays that lead me to offer these tips, which I’ve put into practice myself while strategizing COVID-19 communications with my own clients.

1. Go beyond the basics: We all know travel companies have been some of the hardest hit during the COVID-19 outbreak. Amidst it all, JetBlue Airways demonstrates its care for employees by offering out-of-the-box resources. For example, the airline launched a new series called “Ask a Doctor,” which is an every-other-day conference call hosted by an infectious disease specialist that is open to all JetBlue employees. After sharing factual, timely information about the health aspects of the virus, the physician fields real-time questions from JetBlue employees, tackling everything from lesser known symptoms, to effects on children, to climate impact and more. Hundreds of JetBlue employees have tuned in over the last week to get answers to their most pressing COVID-19 questions. The company’s care – and creativity – shows.

2. Encourage connectivity, generosity: While the stock market has dropped, so have interest rates. This can be beneficial to companies looking to for low-interest loans to make capital investments or bridge payroll gaps during the crisis. But how does a regional bank show its business customers it cares, while also encouraging customers to take advantage of the opportunities? Enterprise Bank & Trust walked the line expertly by calling top customers (that’s right, not just an email) to offer strategic business counsel. In an accompanying customer email, they also guided leaders to look outward and be generous. Here’s a snippet:

“Instead of passing along a list of ‘don’ts,’ encourage your employees to look out and lean in. It is as easy as showing gratitude for the shoeshiner at the slow airport, giving a generous tip to the waitress who was counting on a full restaurant this week to pay her bills, or frequenting a local boutique that is hurting for foot traffic to buy that birthday gift. This is how we can all make a difference.”

3. Have a heart: During times of crisis, there’s no better beacon than your organization’s values. And strategically, propping them up in your communications is another way to enhance your brand as well as express a deeper level of caring. That’s exactly what Marriott International did in this customer email:

“For more than 90 years, Marriott has lived by a core value established by our founder, JW Marriott, Sr., to ‘take care of our guests and associates.’ This enduring value guides us as we face the difficult challenge of responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) … . Our hearts and thoughts go out to the people who have been affected by this unprecedented event and we appreciate the healthcare workers, local communities, and governments around the world who are on the front line working to contain this coronavirus.”

And here is another short and sweet (and well branded, IMO) example from Barnes & Noble.

“Dear Reader,

We’re living through turbulent times together. Our booksellers are your neighbors, your friends and family. Your stories are our stories, and we know how resilient our communities are.

The Booksellers of Barnes & Noble”

There’s no better time for corporate communicators to demonstrate their strategic value than during a crisis. But that’s not the point, is it? The point is that a crisis is about people. Let’s communicate to them on behalf of our companies in ways that are not just helpful, but also meaningful.

What about you, my fellow communicators? What great examples of employee and customer communications have you written or received during this unchartered time? What have you loved (or not)?

Please share your examples with me in the comment below or at

I’d love to capture, learn from, and share with you the best of the best.

Shine On!