After months of a nation-wide shutdown in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the government has started giving the green light for businesses to reopen.
But before business owners get too eager to hang up “we are open” signs, it is crucial to prepare a communications plan – and there’s much more involved than just stating that your business is reopening. Whether your business has the all-clear or is still waiting on news, it’s never too early to start thinking about your reopening plan.
To help businesses prepare, our team of communications experts put together a list of tips to navigate the steps to reopening.
Communicate with your employees first
Before updating the public, make sure your employees are aware of the business’ plans to reopen. Communicate any new policies and procedures with your employees to ensure that everyone is prepared to return. Not doing so can fracture the trust in your working relationships and complicate recovery plans.
It’s also a good idea to check in with your staff to make sure everyone is planning to return since COVID-19 has caused a range of physical and mental health concerns. You should also post all communications regarding reopening plans to the company’s internal platforms, whether that may be an employee intranet, newsletter, e-blast, group chat, etc.
Emphasize the priority of health and safety
Once your employees are aware of your plans to reopen, you can begin to craft an external message for your customers. As mentioned, there’s much more to communicating with the public than just stating that your business is reopening.
As the global health pandemic is ongoing, emphasize your priority to everyone’s health and safety. You must address the measures that your company will be implementing to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including adhering to cleaning and disinfecting protocols, employees wearing gloves and face masks, standing six feet apart, etc. This helps your returning customers know what to expect.
Remember, although your business reopening is exciting news – and it’s perfectly acceptable to use a positive tone in your messaging – it is even more important to communicate these health and safety protocols so that your customers feel safe and comfortable returning to your business.
Be honest and clear about new policies and procedures
Although businesses are starting to reopen, it doesn’t mean that life is back to normal. Businesses will have to implement new policies and procedures to help promote public health. In addition to the general protocols put in place by the government such as cleaning and disinfecting, there may be additional information to communicate with your customers before reopening.
- Is your business only accepting debit/credit card payments at this time?
- Will customers be denied entry if they are not wearing a face mask?
- Will business hours be reduced?
- Will there be a limit to how many customers are allowed inside at once?
- For retail: Will you process merchandise returns during this time?
- For retail: Will change rooms be open?
Each business’ needs may differ, but good communication remains essential. Be honest and transparent about any new changes as a result of COVID-19. Brainstorm likely questions from your customers and prepare answers to ensure consistency. It would also be a good idea to hang signage on the outside of your door and inside the walls of your business to remind customers of these new policies and procedures once you have reopened.
Distribute communication through social and digital media
If your business is active on social media, you should distribute your communication on all platforms. If your local community actively uses a hashtag for news (for instance #kwawesome for Kitchener-Waterloo and #LdnOnt for London) you should incorporate it into your messaging to help spread awareness. Use appealing graphics to catch your audience’s attention on these important posts! You should also distribute your communication on any other digital media your company uses, such as posting the message to the homepage of your website, sending an e-blast to the customer mailing list, and updating your business information and hours on Google.
Regardless of which platforms you use to communicate your message, make sure that your communication is consistent across all platforms to help you maintain customer trust and help avoid any confusion during this unprecedented time.
Pitch to local media
One last tip. Let the local media know that your business is reopening – in addition to any new changes. Pitching to the media will help spread word to the community and expand your reach beyond your following to gain new business.
At Durrell Communications, we are experts on pitching to the media and getting local businesses in the news. If you need any assistance with pitching or crafting your communications plan for reopening your business, contact us today!