How to choose the right words: 5 tips for improving employee comms during COVID-19

How to choose the right words: 5 tips for improving employee comms during COVID-19

With a dispersed workforce, internal comms take on a new level of importance within a business. The COVID-19 crisis means that, for many, digital channels are now the only option when it comes to reaching employees—so it’s vital that due care is paid to getting your communication right.

Here are five tips to keep in mind during the coming weeks:

1. Semantics matter

The World Health Organisation recently encouraged the use of the term ‘physical distancing’ instead of ‘social distancing’. It’s a perfect example of how seemingly minor details matter when it comes to mass communication.

There’s a huge difference between ‘postponed’ and ‘cancelled’; similarly, between ‘requested’ and ‘required’. In times of change and uncertainty, pay attention to the meaning of the words you choose. 

2. Your tone must be ‘crafted’

Do you want to speak to employees with kindness or authority? Do you want to make them feel secure, calm, and empowered? Do you want them to feel like your company has got their back? It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.

Take the time to consider the tone you’d like, and adjust accordingly. If you want to convey confidence, use definitive language and strong verbs; to demonstrate empathy, use softer language and emotive verbs.

Bear in mind that it’s likely to vary too—a ‘how-to’ on GDPR processes should be different to your weekly social updates—so review everything before it’s sent to ensure you’ve got it right.

3. Clarity is key

During these uncertain times, there’s an overwhelming need for clear and concise information. 

This is particularly applicable when it comes to comms of special importance, such as company-wide guidelines for your staff to follow or information regarding security and compliance. Ensure vital instructions and recommendations are as easy to comprehend as possible, using bullet points or ‘do’s and dont’s’ for clarity. 

Break complicated processes into steps, making sure the order is clear and concise. Ensure your formatting is such that the reader cannot and will not accidentally skip over vital information. And make sure to provide clear indications of whom to contact if anything in your message is not crystal clear.

4. Separate from your bias

Good comms will land the message, evoke the feeling, and inspire the action. But how do you write good employee comms? It starts with putting yourself in your employees’ shoes. But not everyone knows how to truly separate themselves from their own biases and experiences.

One way you can do this is, before you start writing, to ask yourself:

  • Do they have enough context or do I need to provide it?
  • Do they know the terminology or do I need to simplify it?
  • What are their challenges and concerns and have I addressed them?
  • How do they feel now and how will they feel after they’ve read my comms?

Once you’ve written your piece, go back over it and ask yourself the same questions. 

5. Avoid ‘content by committee’

A letter with ten different authors might as well have none at all. A situation where everyone thinks themselves a writer will lead to confusion and chaos.

Employee comms need to be crafted by people who know how to craft them, so leave it to your experts.

If you have a Comms Manager or a Content Manager, take their lead; if you don’t have in-house experts and you want help, contact me at