• Nia Campbell

Quick, clear communications for a crisis


Things are changing fast, and it’s during times of crisis that we realise how important it is to be precise, concise and clear in our communications. Here are 10 tips to help you communicate quickly and clearly if you need to keep your audience updated regularly.



1. Write a helpful heading

Use your heading as a way to let your audience know what the message is about.


Don’t say: Important message - please read


Say: Your rubbish collection day has changed

Or

Routine cancer screenings have been stopped

2. Get straight to the point

We all know that there’s a pandemic, and everyone’s overloaded with information about it. Don’t expect your readers to do all the work: get to the point as soon as possible.


Don’t say: Due to the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision has been made to suspend cancer screening services.


Say: We are stopping routine cancer screenings in Wales for now following Government advice.



3. Put the most important information first

Think about what matters most to your audience. What’s the most important thing they need to know? Put that information first.



4. Break up text with subheadings

Use clear subheadings and short paragraphs (3-4 lines max) so people can scan the text with ease and find the information they need.



5. Use simple, clear language

What’s the simplest way you can say something? Explain any new or technical terms, or avoid them altogether. Read what you’ve written out loud and simplify anything you stumble over.


For example:


assist = help


suspend = pause / stop for now


self-isolate = stay at home and away from others


Check out the full coronavirus clear writing list from Lizzie Bruce



6. Use ‘you’ and ‘we’

Speak directly to your reader and keep it conversational. This will also help you keep sentences shorter, and be more concise.



7. Be specific and actionable

What do you need to achieve with your content? What do you want your readers to do? Give direct instructions that are simple to follow. Use examples to explain what you mean.



8. Offer reassurance

We can’t predict what will happen, but we can offer some reassurance. Let your readers know that you’re working on a plan, or that you will keep them posted as things develop.


For example:


“We’re all in this together. We are working rapidly to keep our state healthy.” - California Government website


9. Include a ‘last updated’ and review date

Let your audience know when you last updated your web page or article, and when it’s due to be reviewed.



10. Publish text as well as images

Some devices like screen readers cannot read text on images. Publish alt text as well as any images to make it more accessible.



Further reading

Communicating clearly - Content Design London

Readability guidelines - a collaborative universal style guide by Content Design London

Coronavirus and COVID-19 clear writing list - Lizzie Bruce, Cake Content

10 plain English principles for writing better content - Ian Broome, GatherContent Creating usable and accessible links - @DanDoesContent

Communicating with care and empathy during a crisis - Nia Campbell, Tidy Content

Hemingway Editor - check how easy your content is to read


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