How to get your urgent coronavirus message across – FAST

How to make communications feel zippier - woman typing on laptop

In these strange times, it’s more important than ever to be able to get messages across straight away. But to create instant understanding, you have to be prepared to let go of a few things.

So if you don’t want to create confusion – and you want the idea that’s in your head to land in the minds of those around you – here’s what to do:

1. Be direct – and directive

In times of uncertainty, provide clear direction. This means giving clear, firm instructions, rather than suggesting or implying them. To many people, this can feel overly harsh – particularly for people used to corporate environments where the emphasis is very much on collaboration and working together. But remember, when people are stressed, their ability to absorb and process information decreases. So don’t throw out facts and hope that your audience will be able to string a narrative together from them. Tell your audience what to do.

Here’s a woolly example from the government – alongside a better way to get instant understanding:

Indirect doesn’t result in instant understandingDirect reader gets it straight away

Do not go to your second home, a campsite or holiday park.

Why? Because you could be spreading the virus around as you travel. And holiday areas only have enough hospital beds for the people who live in them all the time.

Let go of:

  • Any qualms about sounding impolite. In the past few days we’ve found ourselves living in a time where people will die if important messages aren’t understood fully. So don’t faff around – just give the instruction. It’s what people want authorities to do.
  • Writing like you’re creating an entry in a 1950s etiquette book. Just write like normal people speak – “Don’t” rather than, “Not to do so…”

2. Don’t write essays

You may have sat tons of exams in your lifetime. And you may have got top scores in your exams by using longer words and winding sentences. But if you want someone else to understand what’s in your head rapidly, you have to abandon the fancier words.

Here’s another government example – next to an example that would be understood faster and more accurately:

Unnecessary complexity – doesn’t result in instant understandingSimple – reader gets it straight away
Have you started:
·       Coughing regularly?
·       And/or burning up?
Most people will get over Coronavirus quickly – but some
people will become seriously ill.

Let go of:

  • Writing as though you’re going to be marked. Instead, keep it simple – “Have you started coughing?” rather than, “…recent onset of new continuous cough”
  • Visual distraction. Don’t clutter text with brackets and variants of virus names. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is difficult to read. And yes, we’re aware there are different types of corona viruses… but the reader of this information is going to assume you’re only talking about one of them.

3. Present information simply

Use layout devices wisely to make information easier to navigate and digest. This becomes particularly useful when you have variants of the same information for people in slightly different circumstances.

Here’s another government example which is difficult to make instant sense of, alongside a much clearer version:

No formatting to help – doesn’t result in instant understanding:

Good use of formatting – reader gets to the information they need straight away and understands it:

If you live alone…If you live with other people…
Stay at home if:
You have symptoms of coronavirus – even if they’re mild.
How long for?
At least seven days from when your symptoms start.
Stay at home if:
You have symptoms of coronavirus – even if they’re mild.
How long for?
At least 14 days, starting on the day when the first person became ill.

Let go of:

  • Thinking you have to convey information in blocks of text. Instead, give people clear visual cues about where to find information that’s relevant to them.

4. Hire professional writers to get your information across

When you need your words to have quick, lasting impact, get professional help. With a team of professional writers on your side, you will get better results with the words you use. It’s that simple.

Call us today to see how we can help you. And look out for our free Make them understand, make them act online writing workshops. We’ll be posting information about them in the next few days. Or sign up to our newsletter to make sure you stay in the loop.

Let go of:

  • Thinking that working with professional writers is complicated. When you work with us, we become part of your team. You can delegate work to us in the sure knowledge that we’ll get brilliant work back to you, quickly.
  • Thinking that copywriters are expensive. The reality is that it can be a lot faster and most cost-efficient to outsource work to copywriters. And if your message truly is life-saving in these strange days, we may consider doing your project for greatly reduced rates. Call us to find out more.

Why do these approaches and tips work?

We have all become used to finding the information we need easily. On top of this, when people are stressed, their ability to absorb and process information decreases.

So when people are at their most stressed is exactly the time you need to strip your message back to its most streamlined and effective form.

If you want to talk to us about how to get your message across quickly, please give us a call or drop us a line.