Why COVID-19 Communication Requires Transparency

This is a FMI authored article by Kelli Windsor, Director, Digital Communications, FMI.

Every year in The Food Retailing Industry Speaks report we ask food retailers about their communications channels/methods and which they find to be most effective. In a typical year I’d tell you which social media channels food retailers are finding most effective and evaluate whether the print circular is on the way out. This year has been anything but typical, so my usual analysis simply won’t do.

Back in the early days of COVID-19, FMI members were meeting frequently with staff and sharing how they were responding to the constantly evolving crisis. One of those best practices was something you may have received as a consumer yourself—the email communication that explained how your primary store was supporting shoppers during COVID-19. I don’t have to tell you that a lot was changing at this time and this email communication was extremely important—it provided transparency during a time of confusion.

Each company had their own spin on this email, but according to our Speaks research, no matter the message, most food retailers (96 percent) say email communication was effective during the early days of COVID-19. Shoppers wanted reassurance, and the transparent communication about steps your store was putting into place to respond to COVID-19 was paramount. It’s also clear this tactic played well on social media with 99 percent of food retailers saying communications through Facebook have been most effective during COVID-19. Both email and social media tactics met consumers where they are and saw success.

The real lesson to learn is not that email and social media are effective, but the power of transparency.

The real lesson to learn is not that email and social media are effective, but the power of transparency. Now, nearly nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, transparency is still essential and should be conveyed across your communications channels—email, social media, print and in-store. Assure shoppers that your increased sanitation practices continue and reinforce the importance of mask wearing and social distancing. Consider a steady drumbeat of messages to your shoppers about your response to COVID-19 in-store and how you are supporting the community you serve. I promise you; shoppers will value the clear and open communication in the days, weeks and months ahead.