How to Talk to Your Clients and Sphere About COVID-19
Like you, my inbox is currently full of emails from big companies -- drugstores, travel providers, restaurants, and more -- telling me how they are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a writer and marketing consultant, I am always fascinated to see the different ways that huge companies with vast resources handle their messaging.
At the same time, I am hearing from a number of clients and colleagues looking for ideas for their own messaging. Whether you are looking to reassure current clients or let your larger sphere know what is going on in your business and your market, it's important to get the communication right when you're talking about something this important.
I thought I would share with you my insights on what is effective, what is needed, and how you can reach out to people right now.
1. Take time to communicate.
You may be unsure whether to communicate with your sphere. After all, isn't everyone inundated right now with emails, articles, and other information?
While you may feel that you have nothing to contribute to the conversation, remember that in a time of uncertainty it is helpful to know what is going on. As a real estate professional, you can talk about how the current market is being affected. You can give people insights into what they should be doing right now if they are considering buying or selling.
(NOTE: One thing that many people are using to generate interest in their local market is the promise of low interest rate mortgages. Remember, in compliance with Dodd-Frank and state regulations, you are not allowed to give mortgage advice unless you are a mortgage originator. If you want to create any type of messaging on this topic, do it in cooperation with your favorite local lender.)
Most of all, you are letting them know that you are here for them. Remind them why you are the person they should turn to for their real estate needs -- you'll have their back during good times and bad.
2. Stop the spread of misinformation.
One of the most important things you can do right now is to take care with the information you spread. There are Facebook posts, emails, and many other content pieces filled with erroneous tips and downright dangerous false information. This is not the time for you to contribute to its spread.
Instead, talk about what you personally are seeing and experiencing and how you can help your clients and your sphere. Talk about what is going on in your community.
Most of all, do not pass along medical information, even if you think it is from a reliable source. Many fake Facebook posts have doctors' names attached or appear to be from research labs and universities. They are not, and the information they contain is worse than useless -- it's dangerous.
3. Be specific rather than general.
Some of the worst messaging I have seen from companies is overly general word mush about how they FEEL about the coronavirus and the current situation. In order to make your communication meaningful, be specific with the information you provide.
This might include any or all of the following procedures that you are implementing right now:
Driving in separate cars from clients to maintain social distance.
Providing wipes and hand sanitizer during showings.
Canceling open houses and holding virtual open houses through Facebook Live or IGTV.
Conducting virtual meetings with clients, including listing appointments, buyer consultations, and client updates.
Providing more robust online transaction coordination in order to limit contact.
Limiting office hours and implementing work from home policies for yourself and your support staff.
The more specific you are about the steps you are taking to limit your clients' exposure, the more you reassure people that you are paying attention and keeping their best interest at heart.
4. Appeal to authority.
There are a variety of ways that you can provide solid, meaningful information and back up your own policies in response to COVID-19. Sources of authoritative, meaningful information include:
National Association of REALTORS advisory on COVID-19
Information from the Centers for Disease Control
Reliable sources like Inman offering updated, vetted policies
Policies from your brokerage company, local association, or state association
Credible news organizations, particularly major newspapers like the Washington Post which led much of the initial coverage of the pandemic.
5. Be reassuring.
This is not the time to act like Chicken Little and say "the sky is falling." If the past has taught us anything, it is that we will survive this, we will be fine, and we will soon look back and say, "Oh, that turned out to be okay after all."
While you can't predict the future, you can let people know that you are here, you are open for business, you care about them and the community. Remember, people feel helpless right now. Empower them with ways that they can do good and with actionable steps and resources.
There are people who are going to be out of work for the foreseeable future. Provide a link to Feeding America to help ensure food banks stay fully stocked.
There are older people and those who are immunocompromised who are scared right now. Provide common sense guidelines designed to help "flatten the curve."
Many people are feeling lonely right now. Social isolation can create depression and fear. Reach out by phone or online, especially to those who may need some encouragement.
Most of all, take care of yourself and those you love. Create content and manage your online and social media platforms. Take an online class for your CE credits or to add a new certification or designation. Use this time to prepare for the days ahead, both good and bad.
We are all in this together. We're going to be okay. Really.