Select the right words. Say them well.

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First, I hope you are safe – and think this might be helpful.

Walking a fine line, you want to reach out to colleagues and clients, but you don’t want to seem opportunistic or inappropriate. Perhaps you have a specific way to be helpful, but how do you let them know? Do you let the very nature of this crisis change how you communicate? And if you are coming from a different place, how do you get that done? I’ve been asked these questions by colleagues and struggle with the topic myself, so I thought it was time to share some thoughts and lessons learned.

Start from the heart: we are in such a different time you must address it. And if you are addressing it, do it human to human, even through the written word. We ALL have uncertainty and concerns, so simply expressing those concerns and your care for others is more important than ever now.

Keep it short: We all have received emails from organizations and companies we do business with regularly – airlines, hotels, utilities, etc. I’ve been surprised to see long, detailed messages in too many cases. Do I really need to know my cable company is restricting non-essential business travel? Just express your concern and keep the message focused on what direct steps you are taking in the way you interact with customers, period.

Be helpful and specific: Topics like economic and health insecurity, anxiety, isolation and loneliness are obvious human concerns for many of us. If you can provide that kind of specific support, let people know, but not everything is as direct as that. I’ve found connection by just letting people know I can help them as they communicate these delicate messages. How can you realistically help? Start there and you’re probably headed in the right direction.

Emphasize your availability: In a time when so many doors need to be closed, let others know HOW you can still be helpful. Offer to send an easy-to-use link for a quick face-to-face meeting. Some folks have avoided virtual meetings, but now have no choice. It can be an uncomfortable step and your help there can make a difference.

Business still needs to get done: We are rightfully focused on the terrible toll for businesses that have closed or will need to because of COVID-19. But what about those who still need to keep going, no matter what? How can you help them? Often, those individuals are working extra long hours and are equally stressed. A quick message of support and suggestion of your assistance can be a welcome lifeline during challenging times.

In the spirit of this message I will try to provide additional advice in the coming weeks. Again, my very best to you.

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: cary@clear-comm.net.