Every time we think it can’t possibly get harder or more complicated to communicate with other people in a meaningful way, it does.

With the pandemic dragging on for almost a year and an election hangover that keeps getting worse, consumers are looking for specific messages from brands and organizations. Here are some tips for communicating successfully in this tense environment. 

Read the room: Show empathy
The world is figuratively on fire. Emotions are running high. Now is not the time to be overly coy or cute with messaging. The word “authentic” is overused in communications, but it absolutely applies to the current national mood. Just like you would do in an actual, in-person meeting, read the room and alter your communications to match body language. Be honest, straightforward, and sincere. Anything less than that will fall flat, and could even backfire. 

Make sure your content serves a purpose
Now is a great time for your company or brand to try something different with messaging. In this tense environment, consumers are looking for helpful, low-key content—certainly nothing demanding. Give them what they are searching for, even if it doesn’t exactly match your usual brand communications. Try providing a fun service, like a how-to video, or let your followers know about feel-good, community-based activities your company is providing during the pandemic. Self-serving messages will not connect. 

Cut the BS
More than ever, speak plainly. Tell consumers what they want or need to know. Forget the long, flowery paragraphs that take too long to land a message. In other words, everyone’s patience is thin and it’s time to get to the point. Meandering sentences of corporate-speak are not effective right now. Be short, be clear, and write for your customers, no one else. 

Relationships matter more than ever
If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that we all need each other. In business, we’ve had time to look around and realize who our friends are based on whom we miss seeing or talking to, and who might be missing from the picture. Once life returns to “normal,” those relationships will take center stage as we lean on our friends to resume business as usual. During this prolonged pause, it’s a great time to connect with those partners whom we will need to resume normal business activities. Who is missing from the picture, or whom would you like to be aligned with in the future? Make or renew those relationships now. 

Make it personal
To quote a favorite Will Ferrell movie, real people are “so hot right now.” Sincere human connections are enjoying their moment in the sun, as a weary nation looks past false fronts and craves genuine connections with other humans. This might mean you highlight your employees on social media, or encourage your CEO to write a more personal blog post for the company website or newsletter. Whatever the tactic, ensure it passes the “real person” test, and watch your engagement grow.