26 Mar 2020 Crisis marketing Strategy

Communicating in a time of crisis

Blue heart communicating in a time of crisis

Let’s be honest, most of us have never known anything like the Coronavirus/Covid-19 crisis that we are experiencing. At the top of everyone’s agenda right now is how to help with the unfolding health emergency. But, although businesses are struggling, the economy does still run. It’s important for businesses to continue to communicate with their customers and clients so that, when this is all over, life and business can return to normal (whatever that looks like). 

What you communicate and, more importantly, how you communicate, is not easy to get right. This article gives you guidance on some of the ways to handle what’s happening now. 

Pay attention to an ever-changing landscape 

The situation is changing daily. New rules to abide by, bad news being delivered, general fall-out from Covid-19 – all these things mean the mood of an audience can change quickly. A message that looks normal one day can feel crass and insensitive the next. It’s important to pay attention to what’s going on and how people are feeling. 

Where you have scheduled content planned, it’s easy to forget and send out a post that just has the wrong tone. Review your scheduled content and planned communications every day. Ask yourself: 

  • Does this still sound right? 
  • Is the information still correct? 
  • How could it be misinterpreted? 

If necessary, change the wording or simply remove it. 

Our content editor, Jonathan Paul, says ‘If in doubt, throw it out’. At this time, people are unlikely to miss it. 

Think carefully about imagery 

That picture of a team high-fiving each other isn’t the best look right now. In fact, pictures of people not physically distancing themselves from each other is the opposite to what we are being told to do. Your picture on the blog you wrote a long time ago, but still share on your social media, may be unconsciously influencing the wrong behaviour. Update your imagery to reflect the current advice. There are plenty of stock images available on sites like Pexels or Unsplash that you can use for free. 

I wouldn’t go as far as to say you need to change your Meet the Team page on your website – that feels a step too far, and actually you want to show unity. 

Do you really need to send an email about working from home? 

I’m sure you’ve had many emails from suppliers, or newletters that you forgot you’d signed up for, telling you they are now working from home because ‘the health of our staff is so important’. 

BREAKING NEWS: No one really cares that much. 

The assumption is that everyone is working from home or not working at all unless you are an essential service. This is also something that will keep changing. 

If the change in working practices directly affects the service that your business offers, communicate that to your customers, offering practical steps as to what they should expect. 

For example, if you had engineers working on a customer’s site, that’s probably not now possible, so you need to explain how any work will be rescheduled and how they can get support from you instead. 

TIP: Put the way they can get in touch within the same part of the communication, not just a catch-all at the end. 

If delivery times will be longer, do your best to explain what the new expectation is and ask people to be patient. This will prevent unnecessary calls while you adapt. 

Show empathy and be supportive 

This is a stressful time for everyone. An economic shock combined with global personal tragedy is extreme. Showing you understand and care is worth it. 

Be patient with customers who have lots of questions. Find ways to help. Consider whether there is anything extra you can do for them. People will remember those who helped and those who didn’t. 

Talk about what you know, not what you don’t know 

Unless you are a health professional, don’t talk about the virus and what it does or does not do. The risk of giving the wrong advice is too great – both professionally and socially. Stick to your area of expertise and talk about the topics and services you normally would. 

Be concise 

Many are racing through this situation trying to adapt quickly without panicking about their business. This means they probably haven’t time to digest a preamble. Get to the point quickly and concisely so they can take the information you’re relaying, digest and act upon it. 

Consider using graphics and short videos to get the message across. Look at how HM Government is doing this on social media. 

It’s okay to share light-hearted content 

The world needs to smile as much as possible. You don’t need to pivot to become your industry’s Lad Bible, but sharing a few memes won’t hurt you. Simply reference the fact that people need a little light and positivity. Give people hope and reassurance. This will pass. 

Products/services can still be sold 

It is reasonable, even necessary, to adapt your business revenue model. It is also perfectly reasonable to continue to sell during this time. If businesses can still operate, they should continue to market their products and services to their target audiences. People need to continue to buy otherwise more companies will fold and households will suffer further. 

Of course, a hard sell does not have the right tone, but taking the points above into consideration, it is possible to convey what it is that you offer and how it will benefit your market. 

If you can’t operate fully, take the time to build your brand, keep in touch with your audience until they are ready to buy again. 

Similarly, if you are able to, it is your duty to continue to buy. Just like fighting the virus itself, it will take a group effort to keep everything turning. 

Don’t forget your team 

We all want to survive this crisis. In the rush to try to save a business it is easy to forget those people who you rely on to deliver it to your customers and clients. Don’t forget they are people who may also be frightened about what’s happening, with the virus, the health of their family and the security of their job. 

Be honest with your staff about the situation, what it means, how they can help. People will pull together, it’s in their interests to do so. 

Communicate early to allow people to plan. Praise often. Thank them continuously. Be the leader you are meant to be. 

If things go south, you will need the goodwill. 

In all this, have this as your mantra when you communicate with anyone at this time: 

Be human. Be kind. 

Post-COVID recovery package

The world is preparing to reopen for business and you don’t want to be left behind. We can support you with a strategic plan that puts you on the path to make your brand the best its ever been. Find out more.   

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