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The less said the better (sometimes)

If you can’t say anything good, keep thy mouth shut.

It’s never worked for me, but many the nun, mother, or pal suggested (a version of) this platitude whenever they sensed I was about to blow a gasket and comment in a way that I’d ultimately regret.

I think we’re all tired of COVID-19 talk, even if it’s hard to tear ourselves away from the news. Almost every company has come along with their “In these times of COVID-19, we are here to help” missives – and they should be. Crisis management as well as communicating with clients and personnel is never more important than when the world seems to be going to hell.

However, are we still reading every branded email that tells us their company’s policy for how they take care of clients and that we are all in this together? I don’t think so. Most of these emails appear to be gratuitous, ill-conceived attempts at keeping their client-base engaged. And that’s OK. The economy does need to come back and it will.

But at some point (that we are long past), we learned which sources and outlets can tell us about COVID-19 testing, protocols and care. Beyond that, it can seem, to the recipient of the clothing or ski equipment email, that reading the most current missive consumes valuable time and energy that could better be spent home-schooling, cooking and holding relationships together; we don’t care.

That’s when it’s time to say nothing. And that time may be now, which is in direct opposite of what public relations normally looks and feels like.

Public relations is communication. It’s about informing and telling a story. It’s about making sure desired audiences know how you’re different, how you behave better than competitors and what you bring to your clients’ tables.

But saturation wears people down. Getting daily “here’s what we’re doing” messages is tiresome. That is unless you’ve tweaked, realigned your business model, are behaving creatively or have something new and helpful to say.

Two examples: a caterer lost $20,000 worth of business in one week in March 2020, when months of scheduled weddings and bat mitzvahs went away. And then there is the hairdresser who can’t come within six feet of his clients any time soon — not because salons haven’t opened (they have, with restrictions) — but because just this week his husband tested positive and their teenage son began exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms over the weekend.

Both entrepreneurs quickly changed tactics and they do have a thing or two to say.

The caterer is now cooking family sized meals six days a week and she’ll deliver those meals —l prepped and ready — to your front door. In doing so, she’s quickly made up for the lost big event business because she communicates like mad — every day on social media.

The hairdresser’s put together “hair-loving” kits with products clients can use until they return to the salon. He texts everyone. He drops product off. People know about it and they feel better. Furthermore, he is now receiving much welcome support and love in a time when he might otherwise be losing his mind.

Both business owners are not only keeping their pre-COVID client base, but they’ve added customers.

That’s what worthwhile communicating looks and feels like in a time like this. It is mindful, it is not vacuous, it offers new information, and company updates that can and will make a difference to clients.

It is not duplicative of whatever corporate-speak COVID-19 email hit the inbox this morning. It is not condescending or simply a repeat of the morning news — distributed to an email address list for fear of not saying anything.

Worthwhile communication is helpful, it is informative, it is authentic and, most important, recipients are happy to get it.