Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

I’ve been reflecting upon this saying quite a bit lately, “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” I’ve considered this saying throughout my life, mostly when I’m feeling unsure and afraid. I saw it in a bar many moons ago and it spoke to me. Still does.

As we map our course forward, it’s clear that we’ve entered unchartered waters. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set sail. Sailing requires an understanding of current conditions and a eye to future conditions. It requires knowledge, experience, resourcefulness and some luck. Navigating the months ahead will be filled with uncertainty, but there are some things we do know. Your communication efforts should take them into account.

Businesses are beginning to reopen, and with that comes a whole host of rules, guidelines and uncertainty. Communication, as always, is key. It’s important to think about your marketing and communication efforts moving forward. Many of the fundamentals remain the same, but some things have changed.

Start by recognizing that all communication should be extremely thoughtful and intentional. Remember that people have very different life experiences and perceptions. It’s very true now. This ought to be recognized.

Be extremely clear in your communication about what your expectations are for your business, your customers and your employees. One of the best ways to conquer anxiety is to provide information. How are you reopening? What will your hours be? How many people may visit at one time? Are there specific actions that you need your customers to take? How will they communicate with you? These are just a few things you should consider when preparing your plans. Update information regularly.

Safety is now a competitive advantage. Just as price, service and quality have driven competitive advantage propositions in the past, safety now must be considered. Your communication should provide safety information for your customers and clients, as well as how you plan to keep your team safe.

Employee communication is always important, but now more than ever employee communication has to become a priority. Ensure that you have the means to communicate with your employees on a regular basis. This will ensure consistency, and provide a feeling of comfort for those who may be anxious. Don’t forget to provide a means for employees to communicate with you and others as well.

Be creative. Creativity has always been a necessary component to thriving, but now it is vital. How you do what you do should be examined. Are there areas for improvement? What will your customers and clients expect? Are there areas that you can grow that will benefit your business in the long term?

Don’t forget the future. Many people are running from fire to fire, simply trying to put them out. It’s understandable The future isn’t clear, much less next week. But, failure to plan for the future, even if it isn’t clear, will create problems down the line. Try to consider different things that may happen, and develop a plan for as many contingencies as possible.

Reach out to others. How are they weathering the storm? Sharing ideas is a positive strategy that benefits all concerned. Additionally, talking with others that understand your situation is very supportive and will help you focus on optimistic ways to sail through the storm, rather than possibly feeling isolated.

Finally, do not cut your communication and marketing efforts in an attempt to save money. That’s like throwing food overboard, while sailing the ocean blue, simply to save some weight in order to move more quickly. It won’t sustain you on the journey ahead.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising.  She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or LinkedIn.

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