In this new world of “shelter at home” uncertainty, your inbox has probably been flooded with hundreds of updates from businesses about COVID-19. Among them are messages from investment firms and financial advisors seeking to assure recipients that things are under control. These senders have an even more complex task than most organizations as they must also address financial market drama.
As each day brings news of unprecedented action by the Fed or recovery plans from Congress followed by the market’s often swift response, anything you said yesterday feels immediately out of date. Naturally, many would prefer to stop communicating and simply focus on managing the crisis and responding only to clients. But we would argue that there may be opportunities to communicate with the world during difficult times that can be meaningful and helpful in the long run.
Here are a few actions that we see working now:
- Share the facts – While we’ve seen nothing like this before, gathering meaningful historical data can help people put today’s crisis into context. Here’s an example from The Leuthold Group’s Doug Ramsey as quoted by Bloomberg: Leuthold Group, the Minneapolis investment house, compared the timeline of past market sell-offs with past slumps in the economy. In 93 years of data, it found that the quickest it’s ever been from the start of a recession to the bottom of a bear market was two months, in 1957. On the other hand, over 11 recessions, stocks didn’t start to recover until 1 1/2 years after the economy started contracting, on average.
- Step up – If you are in a position to help out, let the world know. Everence Financial, parent of the faith–based mutual fund family Praxis Mutual Funds, is doubling the amount of eligible Sharing Fund grant money available to congregations with an Everence stewardship advocate for the remainder of 2020 to help those economically crippled by the pandemic. DPL Financial Partners announced that it was dropping fees for new clients of their annuity platform, to assist advisors seeking to help frightened clients seeking guaranteed income or trying to avoid sequence-of-returns risk with commission-free insurance products.
- Offer insights – Be available to offer your current thinking–noting any caveats– especially to reporters you’ve known and worked with in the past. By all means, prioritize clients first. But also try to find time to help reporters you trust with insights and information. As many of us begin to ignore the communications coming our way via our inbox, offering your insights via a well-read financial column may reach more of the people you want to reach at a time like this.
- Make the most of email – Most everyone’s traditional ways of operating have been upended. Work from home situations now often mean juggling kids and other distractions in the background. And many reporters are finding “interview via email” more effective. The upside is that these electronic exchanges may take less time and allow you to review your comments before hitting the send button.
- Revise yet again – Take a few minutes to rework what you had planned prior to the pandemic. Good work done a week or two ago may no longer be usable, but that doesn’t mean you should just abandon it. Take a few minutes to update content to reflect today’s new reality. If you scheduled social media posts, make sure they are still up to date.
- Put your best face forward – If performing broadcast interviews via Skype or videoconference, do your best to create a well-lit “studio” at home. Sit facing a window, make sure the background is neutral, add side lighting and consider placing a white poster board or other reflective material under your computer. And these tips for remote video interviews can obviously be applied to internal videoconferences too, when you are looking to project an upbeat and professional image to your teammates during a tough period.
- Don’t be tone deaf – During a pandemic, the world does not simply march forward. You’ve got to constantly re-evaluate whether it still makes sense to post content or share news. While you may have planned to celebrate an important milestone or anniversary, it might make sense to wait until COVID–19 news slows.
As we are all victims of the pandemic, you know when something feels awkward or inappropriate in this new time. At a minimum, acknowledge the unknown, remember we are all in this together and proceed with a helpful heart.