By Bernie Dixon
Getting the message just right during a disastrous time can be a challenge for any CEO. Most early stage companies don’t have a professional PR team to turn to while many PR firms may not help with the personal and professional tone that a CEO needs to project in their communications to employees, partners, customers and investors, especially in chaotic times. There is a lot of information circulating and a lot of sources of “news.” Some is spot on while others are short on data or sensational enough to drive fear. Now is the time for strong CEOs to launch company communications and drive their vision. Its always good to look how other company CEOs are reaching their employees and customers via digital means. After seeing hundreds of these messages in the past few days, I have crafted a template of some of the best practices I have seen with hints on content and wording. Here’s a template you may find helpful in crafting your own CEO communications.
CEO Communications Template
Address the crises and recognize the performance of employees “Covid-19 is unlike anything we have faced in our lifetime. We are doing a fantastic job in our response to the health and wellness aspects of COVID-19. We are doing great at responding to our customers’ ___(example here)___. Thank you.”
Address the unknowns then move your employees from fear of the unknown to acting in ways that you need. For example: “As daunting as this, we need to launch preparations for the economic aftermath of the COVID-19 virus. Though the situation is fluid, the implications on our society and on our economy may be far reaching. The adage of “hope for the best but plan for the worst” is going to be our rally cry. We have all heard speculation on how dire the economic environment might become. Some alarmists are forewarning unemployment levels reaching 20% or more. Though this possibility may be being used to rally support for aggressive government measures, we must fathom the possibility of a deep global recession and widespread unemployment.”
Describe your vision of how the company is currently positioned. Employees need to hear your perspective as the leader. Don’t miss this opportunity to drive your vision. Here’s some examples. “Company Name is in a strong position for this possibility. Our revenue is largely recurring and our customer base is dominated by large enterprises who remain strong. Our newest product is performing well………Our newest investors are well capitalized and adding value to help us navigate……Our business model is durable……..We are poised to serve our customers in difficult economic times.”
Or you may be shifting gears. Company Name is shifting operations to position for a changing market ….With our small team of operations experts, we are preparing to shift operations to support changing customer needs. The residential segment is becoming the highest demand and we have the opportunity to grow our revenues in that arena while supporting the biggest need during the crises. This presents a huge opportunity for Company Name.
What are you preparing for? “Yet we must take immediate and aggressive actions to prepare ourselves for a very difficult economic environment.
The job market will become very tight. Unemployment will increase and open positions will disappear
Customers might seek to cancel services that are not yet installed or delivered even if they are contractually obligated to accept services
Customers may be slow to pay for existing services or support
Churn might increase as customers might seek to reduce their costs
Bookings may slow”
Identify what actions you are driving. Examples can include the following. “With this in mind, we need to take aggressive and rapid actions to mitigate the impacts of these items. As examples, these will include the initiative below:
Be attentive to the needs of our customers. This is always important, but it is even more crucial in stressful times
Scrutinize open positions. Although we are not initiating a hiring freeze, we recognize that compensation levels that might have been appropriate in the recent past will change as unemployment grows.
Implement urgent cost management and cost cutting initiatives
Review our existing pipeline and identify opportunities to mitigate exposure
Reduce our capital unit costs by rebidding and renegotiating any in-process projects. As an example …..
Reduce our network expenses and network ops costs by renegotiating with our vendors
Aggressively manage accounts receivable to mitigate the impact of slow paying on our cash flow
Require more upfront capital for capital intensive, long payback projects. Require upfront enrollment fees.”
Connect with your employees specifically. Such as the following: “Our goal is to navigate through this environment from a position of strength. We will strive to preserve our employees’ jobs. We will aspire to be proactive if there are opportunities to strengthen Company Name through M&A opportunities. We need every Company Name employee to reflect on the situation. In difficult times, we need the best that each of our teammates has to offer.
Stay focused and don’t allow the remote work environment to lessen your effectiveness
Be proactive, work hard and collaboratively, as this will help us avoid the need for staff reductions
Be a leader, helping your colleagues, our customers, and our broader community through what could be a very difficult time.
Act urgently. We have a lot of opportunities to assist existing and prospective customers. Our sales teams can open opportunities by working together with urgency and as a high performing cross functional team.”
Or explain how you will decide next steps “We are likely to establish a small team to define and drive our overall actions associated with preparing for the economic aftermath of COVID-19. You may be called on directly to assist our team. I encourage everyone to provide value added input or offer a perspective where you might contribute beyond your current position. Our collaboration zone is now open and working. I will personally be monitoring the actions and communications throughout our re-positioning process and anticipate a resultingy solid action plan in the next 48 hours.”
Give a nod to your teams again. Share your thoughts about the future. Indicate your next communications. For example: “While we face a challenge that none of us could have anticipated, we have the opportunity to protect our customers and employees while repositioning Company Name to not only weather this storm but emerge even stronger and more resilient as a business that is established as a pillar of the World’s economy. Our families and communities will also benefit by being resilient through these times. Thank you for your commitment to our success. I send the best to you and your families. More information will follow. (Your Name)”
You got this. Follow this template and you will ease communications to your valued employees and gain even more support moving forward. Please know that here at launchpad2X we are on your side as the CEO to help you and your company not just weather the storm but to flourish as we emerge from the current crises. Send me your examples of what you are doing. I would enjoy seeing the successes and the “opportunities.”
On your side and playing to win,
Bernie Dixon is Founder and Chairman of Launchpad2X, a founder-to-CEO training accelerator for women entrepreneurs based in Atlanta, GA. Find her on LinkedIn.