Seattle (Kirkland, technically) is the epicenter of the Coronavirus and COVID-19 outbreak here in the US. Companies of all sizes have reacted accordingly–responsibly–by asking as many employees as can to work from home. But not every business can work remotely, and small local businesses are feeling the pinch of consumers staying home particularly hard. Here’s what your business can and should do to communicate clearly with your customers during the pandemic.

The first step, no matter your business, is to communicate clearly and effectively with your staff and customers. 

If You Can Offer a Remote or Telecommute Version of Your Services and Products

Use your communications channels to tell prospective customers and existing clients how you can continue to serve them.

  • Write a blog post or Wiki on your website, share updates on social media, and send a special e-newsletter blast.
  • Leverage your company Facebook and LinkedIn pages, as well as other social media channels like Instagram, Pinterest, Google My Business, YouTube, or even TikTok and Snapchat.
  • Clarify if there are any services or products you can’t feasibly offer, but otherwise highlight those you can.
  • Give customers easy steps to follow to access your virtual solutions and keep sharing as long as we’re affected by the Coronavirus fall-out.

If You Need to Work in Person

Explain how you are working to keep both your staff and your customers safe and healthy.

  • Publish a blog or Wiki post about your hygiene and hand washing standards–and it’s okay to emphasize that you (hopefully) use these same practices even when there isn’t an outbreak.
  • Share your “Coronavirus Protocol” on social media like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
  • Pin the blog post on Pinterest, and definitely post an update to your Google My Business location profile(s).

If your customers get any sort of text or email confirmation before an appointment, and it’s possible to add content, add something to the effect of “In the interest of your health and ours, if you are sick, please cancel this appointment as soon as possible. If any of our staff is sick, we’ve instructed them not to work, so we may need to cancel or reschedule appointments in the meantime. We thank you for understanding.” If you can, waive any cancellation or rescheduling fees or penalties for the time being, and make sure you communicate that waiver to customers, as well.

If You Have a Brick-and-Mortar Location or Store

All of the above applies to you, but you might need to take additional steps in order to make up for your lost foot traffic business.

  • If you have an e-commerce solution, make sure your customers know how to use it.
  • Write about your online store on social media, Google My Business, and blog posts.
  • Send a special e-newsletter edition out to past customers letting them know they can still shop from the comfort of their own safe homes.
  • If you don’t have an e-commerce solution, now is a great time to invest in one.
  • E-commerce doesn’t get set up overnight, though, so consider taking phone orders and mailing products to customers.

Again, be sure to establish the precautions you’re taking to keep your staff and customers safe and healthy. If this means you need to wear gloves and a mask while packing orders to ship, do it.

The toll of the novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 has only begun from a human standpoint. The economic repercussions will be deep and are likely to create longer-term fall-out. That’s not cause for panic, but it is cause for concern. Take the time now to establish clear communication with personnel and clients, to set protocols for taking sick time or working remotely, and you can mitigate some of the damage. 

And if you’re going to post Coronavirus memes on company accounts, make sure you evaluate whether it fits with your company values and brand, as well as whether it could be taken out of context. There is plenty of good, clean Coronavirus meme fun to be had without making light of a serious situation or further hurting those worried about loved ones. At the end of the day, be kind and wash your hands. 

More Info and Resources

King County published this excellent fact resource on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s Coronavirus update page is updated frequently with news and policy.

The CDC’s Coronavirus update page includes information for businesses.

WHO’s Rolling Updates on Coronavirus page has the most complete global picture on COVID-19. (WHO is the World Health Organization, a non-government organization).