These are unprecedented times as Covid-19 pushes the UK government into taking extraordinary measures that pose a serious threat to the very viability of many small businesses and entrepreneurial ventures.We catch up with Louis Hill, Managing Director of Source PR, who offers some advice on how SMEs should communicate during the Coronavirus crisis.

The exponential spread of the Coronavirus has pushed health experts to declare a pandemic and the closure of businesses the length and breadth of the country. However, SMEs have been particularly hard hit with social isolation, cash flow problems and purchasing paralysis leading many to close their doors and re-examine the very fabric of their offer.

Despite the challenging times, it’s critical that companies have a communications plan to share with their stakeholders what they are doing and why. The plan should start simply with determining who are the stakeholders and what is it that you are looking to achieve with the communications.It is too early to talk about reopening, offers or promotions as we are still too far from knowing definitively when the issue will pass, but there is a real opportunity to build your brand and maintain engagement with customers.There is no single customer engagement method that works for every company; however, having empathy, clarity, and simplicity in your customers communications provides the best results.Be consistent with your communications. Just because the business is temporarily closed does not mean that you should shut down communications. Share with customers what you are doing behind the scenes, any improvements to services or features that show how the business is prepared, organised and responding to the challenges.Social media continues to entwine with people’s lives and provides an excellent platform to share what you are doing. Usage and engagement levels are spiking during the lockdown, with a 22% increase reported in campaign impressions on Instagram and a 76% increase in accumulated likes.Gallup research also shows that highly engaged customers buy more, promote more, and demonstrate more loyalty in the long term – with a fully-engaged customer generating 23% more revenue.Remember to share some of the good work that is being done by many in the industry, and see if you can get involved with that too as a business. Whether that’s supporting the NHS employees or offering services to the community’s most vulnerable.These positive news stories build engagement, support and are popular, particularly when there is little positivity elsewhere. Journalists are actively looking for such stories every day, and therefore this is a fantastic way to achieve media coverage of your business, even whilst your doors are closed. Actions such as these help to integrate with the community and build good will, that can pay dividends in the future.Finally, remember to evaluate and evolve as the situation develops. Crises have a habit of evolving, so your plans need to reflect the changing landscape, customer expectations as well as to reflect how your business is responding.Having clear plans and objectives helps keep an organisation on the front foot in communications. This proactive and organised approach helps convey to customers and other stakeholders that the business is in control while building eager anticipation and support amongst a loyal following for when the coronavirus crisis passes.