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Crisis Communications: Sending Virtual Hugs Is Not Silly

ok…maybe it isn’t appropriate for professionals to actually send virtual hug memes.  But then, maybe it is.  It all depends on the relationship you have with the client doesn’t it?  For some it might indeed be right….but that isn’t really the point of this article.

It is the concept of “sending virtual hugs” which is absolutely appropriate for times of crisis.

The best thing that advisers can do when the world has gone crazy and nobody really knows what to expect  – but we know it generally isn’t going to be good for a while – is to change how they communicate with clients and their networks. 

The “how” that needs to change is at several levels.

Change the tone.

Change the frequency.

Perhaps change the medium too.

The reason for these changes is that we are not in the business of advising during crises.  We are in the business of managing emotions.

We are in the reassurance business.

By that I do not mean to suggest that we are in the business of blindly reassuring clients that everything will be just fine or that markets are “having a bit of a blip”.  Everything might not be fine. Actually, a lot of what we take for granted in the world might be changing permanently.  For instance; “work” will probably never quite work the same way again for many.  That is incredibly disconcerting and worrying for many clients.

Reassurance is not sugar-coating the unpalatable truths.  It is conveying confidence that despite the unpalatable truths they will get through this.

The confidence that together communities will find ways to adapt, survive and then prosper.  The confidence that this too shall pass.  Providing confidence that they are not on their own.

These things matter more than generating an extra percent or 2 on a portfolio or shaving $20 a month off their budget.

Financial advisers in a time of crisis should:

  • - Communicate more often than normal. LOTS more often.  3 months is a long time right now, isn’t it. So the quarterly newsletter doesn’t quite cut it.  Set up group texts where you can punch out easy little 20 second messages to 50 people at a time.
  • - Keep messages short and on point.  People don’t want another rambling spiel on how you’ve changed sanitation rules in your office, or how they should wash their hands. Trust me on that.  Give them action tips that make a difference. Give them concise pieces of critical information that they genuinely need in order to be able to make good decisions.
  • - Personalise messages.  Go beyond getting their first name right in the greeting…zero in on the issue they care about (or should care about).  Use the data you’ve been collecting for years…include references to their employer, suburb, school zone….whatever.  The less generic the message, the more effective it is and the more it is valued.  The more the message is valued, the more valuable you are to them.
  • - Be interested in them.  Ask them how they are doing…find out about their work and their families and their worries. Ask them questions – and then act on those answers where you can.
  • - Be human. Let them know that you and your family are facing the same challenges and questions…let them know that you are in fact one of them.
  • - Be honest.  This is probably exactly the right time to say “I don’t know what is going to happen next, but I know one day it will come right”.  If you know something useful, tell them.  If you don’t know, then tell them you don’t.
  • - Dump the data.  Numbers become pretty irrelevant when we see 10% market drops in a day becoming common news items, or exponential increases in deaths around the globe daily…numbers create numbness.
  • - Reassure.  Let clients know that you are part of their support network.  Another person who has their back.  A problem shared is a problem halved, right?

Crises are by definition “not normal”.  Neither should our communications to clients remain “normal”.

Don’t be afraid to shift the style to something approaching virtual hugs.

Related: Prospecting: Reconnect to Create New Opportunities