Be clear, especially when circumstances aren’t.

These days are what they are — rapidly changing and deeply impactful. So, you are right to proceed carefully in your communication. The following are a few things we know apply to all leaders of people and brands that may be helpful to keep in perspective.

  1. Your decisions, your actions and your communication of those decisions and actions are your brand. Once all of this is said and done, no one will separate what you did and what you said from who you are as an employer, as a community member, and as a brand.
  2. Prioritize your audiences every day. For most right now, the correct priority is staff first, clients, members, customers second, and then the larger community. That might shift from day to day, but overall, your communication should be most direct and intense with the people who are most directly impacted by your decisions. The proximity, volume and intensity of the communication should ripple out from there.
  3. Create your circle. If you haven’t already done so, formalize the circle of people who help you define your communication plans (your senior team, your board, that one person who gives you a different perspective).
  4. Every communication counts. A single phone call can be more impactful than paying for advertising — to the positive or the negative. Use all your tools thoughtfully.
  5. Communicate with empathy. Always, but now more than ever, try to put yourself into the mindset of the people your message is intended for and the people who will see it peripherally. The public might see your message to staff on how to deal with the public.
  6. Communicate change from a point of stability. While there is much change and uncertainty, consider what people can rely on. It may only be that you are working with their best interest in mind, but it is something.
  7. Don’t overpromise, minimize an issue or hold out false hope. Credibility and trust are critical. If you don’t know, say you don’t know, but you’re working on it.
  8. Check your vision, mission and brand values and use them to guide your decision-making. If you find them to be lacking for the situation, use your personal vision, mission and values to guide you, and make a note to fix your brand guides, later.

Should you market now? It doesn’t make financial sense to market to people who can’t buy from you now — maybe they’re holding back every cent, or maybe they’re so busy helping that they don’t have time to look up. Either way, you would be demonstrating that you don’t understand them and their current situation.

On the other hand, it helps everyone to see that the brands they trust are still here and doing their part. Make your marketing decisions through the lens of one year from now. Will you be proud of your choices?

Your brand and your reputation are inseparable. If you have a trusted brand, be very careful that it behaves to maintain that trust. In this way, it will serve you today, it will help you sleep at night and it will carry you forward through difficult decisions to better days.