April 29, 2020

How to strike the right tone in uncertain times

Tone can be the difference between earning trust and alienating audiences. Right now that’s particularly true, so here are a few pointers to help you get it right. Tone applies to written and spoken language so keep these tips in mind when you’re putting together that next social media post, customer email or radio script.

Tip One: In unsettling times of crisis, people will take comfort in authority. To invoke authority, make sure your language is precise and concise. Don’t ramble. Inspire confidence by using clean sentences. Resist the urge to use parentheses. If you need to qualify or explain what you’re saying think hard about whether you really need to say it. And, here’s a PR tip: don’t fake it. If you can’t say something authoritatively, it’s not worth pretending. Getting found out will lose more trust than you stand to gain.

Tip Two: Look lively. In a crisis, sometimes brands default to a stilted, scripted tone. There’s misconception the gravity of the situation calls for “official sounding” communication. You know, the sort that mimics police speak: “we regret to inform individuals our stores are closed at the present time.” Don’t tense up like this. It will distance your audiences. Show you’re tackling the issue by using energetic language. Earn empathy by using warm language. So, try: “to keep you safe, we’ve moved online. In the meantime we’re working on exciting new features to make sure we can welcome you back in store when the time is right.”


Tip Three: Be original. Try not to borrow phrasing from other brands, however tempting this can be. If you do this too much you’ll risk sounding trite. Even worse, your audiences will ignore the message. Having go-to references from other brands can be useful – but use them in moderation. On a related style note, try not to open your comms by saying “in these unprecedented times” – people have read that hundreds of times now and you’ll switch them off immediately.

Tip Four: Use sensitivity. Sure you want to be positive, but don’t be tone deaf. Come across too chipper and it will be irritating and jarring. We’ve seen some brands try rallying cries – using combative language to urge a “fight” against the virus. The Foreign Secretary recently fell foul of this – alienating thousands of people who thought the image of the fight was tasteless.

Tip Five: Honesty is the best policy. You might not have all the answers yet. Don’t be tempted to bluff it. This crisis could be long term and you’ll need to take your audiences with you. Give them reason to trust you. Don’t embellish, inform. Give your audiences useful information and they’ll stay engaged.

If you want some help to find the right words, give us a call on 0191 375 9150.

April 23, 2020

Recruiting frontline communications volunteers

Time to connect with your local communications superstars

Ironically, communications professionals don’t always have the best reputation. But now, more than ever, we can use our powers for good.

All over the country, emergency services, healthcare trusts, care providers and other frontline organisations are working hard to keep the public safe and well. But they also have another challenge: communicating in an effective and engaging way.

In this age of misinformation, where rumours about 5G masts causing pandemics and garlic as a ‘cure’ for coronavirus can spread like wildfire, frontline services are having to battle to communicate clear and accurate information that could save lives. It’s a depressing sign of the times that the World Health Organization has this month released a series of public information posters to dispel myths around COVID-19, but such is the topsy-turvy world we live in.

We’re encouraging organisations and businesses at the frontline – from emergency services to supermarkets, food delivery companies to pharmacies – to connect with the communications specialists in their network and reach out to get the support they need.

Put the call out

Asking for help is not a particularly British quality. But now, more than ever, we all need to work together to support businesses and organisations in need. From help in drafting content to graphic design, crisis communications advice or SEO support, there’s plenty that your comms volunteers can be doing something to get much-needed messages out to the general public.

Your communications contacts – either through in-house teams or local agencies – will likely be used to supporting brands and businesses of all shapes and sizes through times of crisis, and although it’s clear that this pandemic is unlike anything we’ve experienced before, there’s plenty we can all be doing to support our frontline services.

At Cool Blue, we’ve been working closely with the North East Ambulance Service since the lockdown came into effect, providing strategic support on how best to get their message out on social media. From drafting social media content to ensuring they’re connecting with the right audiences online. We’ve donated our time for free to give this vital organisation the support they need in this challenging time.

Work out what you need

Start by identify what you need most. For the North East Ambulance Service, they needed to expand their audience on Instagram, so we began working with them by ensuring that clear messages on coronavirus prevention were being communicating effectively on that platform. We’re now working with them on an ongoing basis, speaking with their team twice a week to provide advice on how best to reach their varied and diverse audience in an ever-changing communications environment.

It may be that your organisation needs to get new information online quickly, or you need to contact your service users to inform them of changes. Talk with your contacts about what exactly it is that you need, then form a plan to split responsibilities accordingly.

Be prepared to think on your feet

With the current social, economic and health climate changing all the time, it may be the case that you need different support at different times, or that your plans need to change rapidly.

Don’t be afraid to enlist help to deal with time-critical messaging. For example, if you’re a local council offering support to businesses and need to reach your audience quickly, find local volunteers who can help you keep on top of your email marketing, social media messaging and web content. You may find that the following week brings a totally new communications challenge, but now that you have people willing and able to offer you their time, you can make good use of your volunteers.

Right now, every little helps. Experts in PR, marketing, brand, design, SEO, digital marketing and more are willing and able to lend their superpowers to those who need it, and do what we can to communicate the messages the public need to hear. Once you put out the call for support, you may be surprised at how big a difference communications volunteers can make.


Cool Blue is a full-service agency that pays special attention to the interiors sector. We make waves in the home and lifestyle world, whether by helping brands find new relevancy or supercharging their sales, our strategic expertise makes brands like yours achieve their goals.

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Lower Steenberg’s Yard
Newcastle upon Tyne
T. 0191 375 9150