communication and engagement in unprecedented times

It’s a good time to notice how organisations are communicating with their different stakeholders, be they staff, volunteers, beneficiaries or paying customers.

Like me you’ve probably had loads of emails from different organisations about COVID-19: telling you what they are doing to keep you safe, explaining what we need to do to look after ourselves, our families, our communities, and what to expect in the future.

I’m picking up on what organisations are saying, and trying to understand the thinking behind the words they are using. The majority of the senders seem to be trying to connect and engage with me. Some want me to volunteer, some want me to buy stuff, and most want me to stay at home.


So, ‘with a heavy heart’, ‘unprecedented times’, ‘pulling together’ and ‘please bear with us’ feature in messages from many different organisations whether they are commercial or not for profit.


The tone of the messages is often very informal, perhaps sometimes trying a little too hard to be informal, or mixing formal and informal language so that the tone becomes inconsistent. This matters because consistency is key to building trust and influencing.


Some organisations focus on ‘us’ and what we can do together: they talk about the importance of ‘working together’ and how communities can come together. They explain how I can volunteer e.g. my local council. Others are simply ‘telling’ me stuff. One arts organisation in particular struck me as a tad self-regarding: in their message they talk more about themselves, their achievements, and what ‘they’ are going to do, as oppose to what ‘we’ can do. Some organisations just want me to keep on buying online. In a way I don’t mind that because at least the message is clear, and I know what I am supposed to do.

I hope this message is not too nerdy. I do think that in these ‘unprecedented times’ we can notice and learn a lot about how to support and engage our stakeholders by choosing our words carefully, being consistent, and focusing on how ‘we’ can all help each other.

Photo: Thanks to John Cameron See John’s other photos here




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