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How to effectively communicate during a pandemic

(Image credit: Image Credit: Bruce Mars / Pexels)

The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the interdependency of every aspect of our modern world. In a global crisis, the infrastructure and supply chains we usually take for granted become discernible as they strain under pressure.

The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Our dependence on hospital beds, supermarkets, ventilators, drugs, soap and, even toilet paper is only fully exposed when access becomes a problem. In the midst of this uncertainty, we find ourselves needing to know what our local supermarket or school or pharmacy is doing to adapt to the chaos. Something we didn’t need to think about before. And it quickly becomes clear how essential information is in a rapidly shifting environment.

Information is one of the most critical resources during times of uncertainty and communicating the right information at the right time to those who need you most becomes invaluable during a pandemic like the one we currently face.

Having a clear communication strategy enables brands to provide empathetic and timely value in a time of immense need. This is where mobile messaging really comes into its own. It can open a portal allowing you to effectively communicate with people when they need credible, trustworthy and secure information the most.

Stay in touch and remain relevant

In recent weeks, OpenMarket has seen a huge surge in the number of text messages being sent by organisations and brands looking to stay in touch with their consumers during these challenging times. This boom in messaging isn’t confined to only well-known brands trying to stay at the forefront of the minds of their customers. Over the last few weeks we’ve seen record volumes of messaging traffic driven by employers, governments, medical institutions, restaurants, schools and other organisations staying in touch with those who need it most. These regular contact points can help businesses to remain ‘human’ and most importantly provide people with real-time, critical information no matter where they are.

Keep people informed during confusing times

If you open up any family group chat you can probably get a glimpse of just how much information is flying around at the moment. While a lot of this news starts off with people meaning well – it doesn’t take long for whispers to spiral out of control and for information to become a dangerous weapon. We’ve all seen the questionable medical advice from a friend of a friend whose sister is a doctor somewhere. Or pictures showing parks full of people last weekend, when in reality those images are from 2014. 

When a situation is serious and unpredictable, information from reliable sources grows in value and importance. Communications companies are making efforts to decrease the amount of misinformation on their platforms. WhatsApp, for example, is limiting the number of times a message can be forwarded and including a double arrow icon to indicate that it’s a forwarded message.

Governments are also stepping up. Last month, OpenMarket worked with a number of carriers to help the UK government send a text to the whole nation asking them to stay inside and follow lockdown rules until further notice. We’ve seen a number of city and county authorities in places like San Francisco and San Diego launch COVID-19 public information text message alert systems. News broadcasters have done the same, with some inviting subscribers to text their own questions for experts to answer.

Be a trusted source and treat your audience’s information securely

You don’t have to be the World Health Organisation or a government body to become a trusted source for your employees, customers or stakeholders. There’s plenty to be done at a more local level, especially by reputable organisations. For example, there are schools that need to help communicating to parents who are confused about closures. There are medical facilities that need to advise patients about appointment availability or teleconferencing alternatives. And there are shops and restaurants that need to help people access essential supplies during the lockdown.

Organisations have an opportunity to add real value to those they care about by helping them navigate their ‘new normal’. As ‘WFH’ enters our lexicon, employees are number one on that list and mobile messaging offers a simple and secure way to connect with them, many of whom may be struggling to get set up with the right tech.

By gathering and sharing information – whether it be health advice, infrastructure updates, best practices, or the service you provide – you can help your employees, customers and stakeholders stay informed. Text messaging offers a reliable platform for imparting this vital information to employees and customers and helps you to position your business as one of value and credibility.

Cut through the 24/7 News Cycle

With so much information flying around it’s no surprise that a lot of people are finding staying informed stressful. For many people this onslaught of constantly changing news can cause information fatigue and stress which results in them switching off altogether.

No matter where you lie on this spectrum, the simplicity, timeliness and reach of mobile messaging can be a great way of cutting through the noise and getting important information to the right people. Text messaging enables you to deliver information to people quickly, at any time, no matter where they are or what type of phone they have. This is particularly important when thinking of vulnerable groups such as the elderly.

Give the people what they want

This period of uncertainty has us all in its grips, and a pandemic of this scale is a truly once-in-a-lifetime event. But times like this give us new tools and ways of thinking that can influence how we operate going forward.

It has never been more important to get unbiased, truthful information. So, whether you’re a public body, a brand offering an evolved service, or a business trying to communicate with all of its employees, you’re likely to see increased sign-up rates for mobile messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic. The onus is on you to keep up your end of the bargain and repay that trust with a reliable, responsible, and valuable service – today and in the long term once the worst is over.

Jonathan Morgan, CEO, OpenMarket

Jonathan Morgan is CEO at OpenMarket, helping the biggest brands in the world use mobile messaging to connect with their customers in the moments that count.