The COVID-19 pandemic is showing just how important it is for business leaders to share their voice. According to Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer, more than nine in ten employees and three-quarters of consumers want to hear from company leaders. But navigating crisis communications is rarely easy: urgent deadlines, strong emotions and high stakes mean the right messages have to be delivered at just the right time. 

We’ve collected top tips from 10 leaders guiding their company through these unprecedented challenges. These founders, executives and managers are actively communicating with employees, customers and the general public, delivering key messages when they’re needed most. Here are their top insights from the frontlines. (Responses adapted for length and clarity.)

Respond, don’t react

There’s a fine line between responding appropriately and in a timely manner versus merely reacting to a situation. A quick response that is inadequate is just that  —  inadequate. It’s important to take some time to make sure your message is on target  —  to know what’s relevant to your customers and their relationship with your company in light of a particular situation. Jared Pope, CEO at Work Shield 

Change content, not cadence

Keep up with blogs and drip campaigns but swap your typical content with supportive insight. Don’t be tone-deaf. And don’t feel compelled to send an email that says “we’re still operating in a remote capacity.” Unless you have something to offer, resist. Ayla Peacock, Director of Digital Strategy at Spire Digital

Be the person who paints the future

Help people see the future. We’re facing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as leaders. We may never have this chance again to test ourselves as leaders in crisis, to be the leaders we admire, to turn the crisis into opportunity. Terry Traut, CEO of Entelechy

Mold your strategy to new realities

I don’t believe we’ll ever fully return to business as usual, but rather adopt a modified business strategy that aligns with new consumer trends resulting from the COVID crisis. We’ll take this opportunity to evaluate the benefits of some of our new virtual habits and leverage the good long into the future. Ben Larson, CEO at Vertosa

Don’t sugarcoat

People are overwhelmed right now, but they still want honest communication, even if the truth will hurt. Don’t sugarcoat and get to the point as quickly as possible. Attention spans are even shorter than normal, so say what you need to say early in the communication. Julie Bee, President of BeeSmart Social Media

Humor can unite people

Humor is an incredibly effective tool in bringing people perspective and helping everyone focus on something outside of their immediate situation. Humor unites people around a common shared experience, and if used tastefully, can also help build a memorable brand. Katelyn Ilkani, Co-Founder of Scopedive

Stay on the balls of your feet

Think of the future, but don’t get too far ahead of yourself as we don’t know when we will have more flexibility in how we work and sell. Continue to work on longer-term strategies as well as immediate solutions. Don’t panic, and lean on your “community” — whoever and wherever they are. Rachel Braun Scherl, Co-founder of SPARK Solutions For Growth

Tailor content to client needs

Be curious like a reporter doing an interview. First ask, and then listen to your stakeholders. What concerns do they have? What content would help? As a corporate leader, activate your connections, aggregate information and deliver on customers’ specific asks. Give your connections valuable content, as well, to help their community. Bianca de la Garza, Founder of Bianca de la Garza Beauty 

Keep connected through video

Make sure you do as much as possible by video communication and be careful with emails, especially with teams. So much is lost through email communication and teams have to feel close to effectively work together. Brian Mac Mahon, CEO at Expert DOJO

Don’t be tone deaf

A lot of people are struggling to meet ends, so be sensitive and don’t try to ride the wave and succeed on other companies’ failures. We have definitely focused more on being there for our community, helping out other businesses in ways that we can, and of course my main priority was to look after my staff. Julian Fisher, CEO at jisp

It can be tempting to go radio silent during times of crisis but business leaders have a responsibility to stay connected to the people who trust them. How are you leading your company through the crisis? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section.