If you’ve been worried about your content, how to talk to your audience, and how to approach selling in the wilds of our current climate… you’re not alone.
Nobody was or could have been prepared for this global crisis.
I suppose that’s part of the package with a crisis… it’s unpredictable and difficult to imagine. Even previous crises have been different to this.
The COVID–19 pandemic certainly blindsided me. I’m really grateful for having a team, friends, and mentors who have all helped me crystalize my approach to content and business right now.
One of the people who has helped me decide my approach is Phil M Jones.
It’s no surprise, he wrote the book on knowing Exactly What to Say! We met when we were both speakers at Youpreneur Summit in 2019 and I was mightily impressed with his keynote. There was no one else I wanted to invite onto the podcast to talk communications and messaging.
Here are some highlights of our interview:
Phil M Jones is an international business speaker, and the author of multiple best-selling books - Exactly What to Say, Exactly How to Sell, and Exactly Where to Start
Phil has made it his life’s work to demystify the sales process, reframe what it
means to “sell,” and help his audiences to learn new skills that empower confidence,
overcome fears and instantaneously impact their results. He is currently one of the most in-demand assets to companies worldwide.
He’s helped businesses across the world improve their sales, their influence, their confidence, and their ability to change lives.
Exactly the kind of person you want to listen to in times like these.
How to communicate in a global crisis
When I spoke to Phil about whether we should be creating content right now, one of the first things he said was:
“We have a duty to continue communicating.”
Though we may be feeling confused or unsure about how to speak in this time, stopping communication entirely is not a great approach. Going silent will make you seem ignorant. At the same time, carrying on as usual will make you seem flippant and uncaring.
Obviously, neither are ideal!
Phil summed it up perfectly when he said:
“You have to speak in a timely way.”
Speak in a way that acknowledges what we’re all feeling and experiencing. It’s not wrong to talk about the time before this pandemic, but you need to be able to frame it properly. Acknowledge the things you miss and the things you’re looking forward to, but don’t talk as if you’re still able to do them and nothing has changed.
For many of us, this means pressing pause on scheduled content. This is something Phil and I both agreed on instantly. It’s not like we were posting clearly insensitive content, but scheduled posts inevitably lack an awareness of the context of our situation.
Phil mentioned how a scheduled post slipped through the net and he shared a clip that could be interpreted as encouraging people to raise their prices.
Great advice usually. Not when people are furloughing staff and having to take mortgage holidays.
“Content without context is just noise”, couldn’t agree with Phil more.
Business are either hiding, surviving or thriving
Phil shared his current thinking, which is that businesses have three choices right now, they either hide, survive or thrive.
In reality, you can’t do one of the three. You need balance across all three, to create the ‘hide, thrive, survive’ cocktail that works for you.
We need to show up for our audience in the good times and the bad, but we don’t need to embark upon giant pivots.
We should work out what the right balance is for us, and incorporate that into our content and our offerings.
We should also work out what our clients are doing: are they hiding, surviving or thriving? How can you help them?
What should you do about emails?
As with social media, Phil has pressed pause on his scheduled emails too.
Where his team usually handles Phil’s email scheduling, Phil took it back as his direct responsibility and stopped working to any kind of set schedule.
“I send emails when I have something to say.”
Sometimes they’ll be long, sometimes they’ll be short. The key is that they have to be relevant and timely and appropriate.
At one point, Phil sent nine emails in as many days, but then stopped for a few days.
It was clear from our conversation that there is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer for business owners during the pandemic. You have to fall back on your intuition, your team and your support network, and lead from the heart.
And this is no bad thing, noted Phil.
Many brands and business owners are shifting to sharing their human side. We’re seeing – their hobbies, their interests, their home projects.
“There is a chance for you to peel back the polish of a brand in this time.”
That might not feel natural for everyone, but times have changed and if you have to change your strategy to properly acknowledge it, that’s important and you absolutely should.
How do we sell in times of crisis?
Phil is an expert in selling, so I was especially eager to hear his thoughts on how we approach the selling side of communication during the crisis.
His take on it?
On the subject of how to approach selling at a time of crisis, @philmjonesuk believes we should be pivoting our sales strategies towards helping business retain customers and improve efficiency.
Phil gave an excellent example using an accountancy firm.
Accountants everywhere are being bombarded by questions from their existing customers (and quite likely some new ones). People are desperate to find out how they can access financial support, what their options are, and how they should move forward.
The accountants may well not realise that creating some great content for their website and repurposing it intelligently across social media, could save them answering the same question on phone and email, 20 times a day – and help their reputation at the same time.
When it comes to pitching and fielding sales conversations, we should “approach those conversations not with certainty but with curiosity.”
Ultimately, most businesses aren’t trying to get loads of new clients on board – they’re trying to serve their current clients, keep them on board, and make the change in operations they’re experiencing smoother.
“What everybody is looking for in this moment, more than ever, is: show me that you know me.”
With the accountancy firm example, telling them they should be creating content to grow their business isn’t going to help them. Telling them they can save time and make life easier for their customers is. It’s all in the framing.
What problem do you solve? How can you work with your clients, current and new, to continue to serve them and potentially solve the problem in a different way, or solve a different problem altogether?
What does the pandemic mean for content repurposing?
Phil is looking less at repurposing old content but, instead, creating new content that is relevant for each day and then repurposing that on the day.
It’s labor-intensive, but these are exceptional times and we can’t expect things to run as they always have done.
What kind of content is Phil creating, then?
“My goal is to be useful with my content. If my content isn’t useful to somebody else’s circumstances at this current moment in time, then I just don’t hit send.”
Creating content like this is “not going to pay you today”, but the game has changed and we have to acknowledge that.
We’re all in the same boat experiencing this pandemic, so don’t try to do too much. Phil put it perfectly when he said:
“Play to your content superpower and then let other people show you how you can repurpose that into other content.”
That means doing a few things really well and repurposing that core content instead of spreading yourself too thin or doing something that “isn’t within your communication lane.”
Struggling to communicate in the pandemic?
Phil’s advice is so lucid and so helpful, but we’re well aware that everyone’s circumstances are different.
To connect with Phil and find out more about what he does, check out his website.
You may or may not know, but content repurposing is my superpower! Taking your message and shifting it, pivoting it to a new platform or for new circumstances is my bread and butter.
If you want help with repurposing then to get in touch and let’s work out how you can use content repurposing to stay in front of your audience in these uncharted waters!