Communicating In A Crisis

In these uncertain times having a clear strategy for your communications is essential.

If you didn’t have a communications (comms) plan before, now is the time to get one; and if you do have one it definitely needs reviewing in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

These are our thoughts on how to adapt, survive and thrive as a business in these challenging times. We hope they are helpful.

Take a Breath

We need to recognise that, at least for the moment, the world has changed.

People are no longer where you expect them to be, no longer doing the things you were expecting them to do, no longer buying the things they were buying just a couple of weeks ago.

Society has pivoted. People’s expectations of the companies and brand’s they deal with have changed, and so you need to take care that you are meeting people where they are now, not trying to meet them where they were before the Coronavirus outbreak.

Several big brands have already fallen foul of this and misjudged the public mood, hence the rise of social media trends like #BoycottWeatherSpoons, #BoycottWilko, & #BoycottSportsDirect.

It seem at the moment people are looking for companies to act with compassion, to ‘do their bit’, and be seen to support their staff and the wider community.

Think about how you can communicate to your employees, customers, prospects, and the wider world about what your business is doing to deal with this issue. Make sure your communication;

  • Is clear about what you can’t do and highlights what you can.
  • Provides stability, clarity and support.
  • Provides helpful guidance to keep people safe, and keep you in business going forward.
  • Doesn’t generate fear or panic, and avoids confusion.

All The W’s… (& H)

You probably remember these from school, but just in case you don’t here they are.

For each item in your comms plan think about;

  • Who you are communicating to?
  • What do you need to communicate to them in this crisis?
  • When is the best time to communicate to them?
  • Where is the best place to reach them? (for example, most people are working from home during the Coronavirus lock down in the UK.)
  • Why do they need to know this?
  • How are you going to get this message to them?

Clear Content is Crucial

Keep it as brief as possible; convey exactly what you need to say, simply and concisely.

Get the right tone; think about how you feel right now, and have felt over the last few days. Anxious, uncertain, worried, nervous, frustrated, etc…? Your audience is experiencing the same tide of emotions.

Communicate on a human level, with empathy, understanding, possibly even hope and optimism, as long as you are clearly demonstrating an understanding of the seriousness of the situation.

Check and Change Automation’s; look at the content of any automatic comms you have set up (welcome letters, abandoned cart postcards, appointment reminders, monthly newsletters etc…)

It is likely that either the content is no longer appropriate (i.e. “pop and see us in store with this voucher for £10 off your first order”), or some of the services or products you are promoting may well not be available with the country on lockdown and many of your staff working from home. 

Think Short, Medium & Long Term

Entrepreneur.com has an excellent piece on “Marketing Do’s and Don’ts During a Crisis” on their website.  It’s definitely worth a read.

We are not going to reproduce it all here but in brief it is a good idea to think about actions over three periods;

  • Short Term (one to three months); what change is hitting you right now, do you need to respond to it, if so how?
  • Medium Term (three to nine months); what strategy adjustments do you need to succeed through the rest of 2020?
  • Long Term (one to three years); don’t make any long-term changes at this point. As conditions and forecasts change adapt your strategy accordingly, but for now hold tight and don’t make any dramatic changes that will hurt in the long run.

And Finally, Some Don’ts

There are some actions and activities that are probably best avoided at the moment and reserved for another time.

Stop Testing Unproven Channels;  Because so much has changed at the moment, any results you get now are unlikely to reflect behaviour patterns that will happen after the crisis. 

Depending on the nature of your business, now is probably not the moment to launch your new company TicTok channel. Put off the testing to a time when you have a more stable market, and instead use proven communication channels like Direct Mail that can reach people where they are right now.

Avoid The Bandwagon; Don’t just jump onto a trending hashtag or headline to try and make a sale. A lack of integrity and authenticity in your communications will come across, and have a negative impact on your brand.

Don’t be Flippant; Be seen to be treating the current situation with the seriousness it deserves, communicate with empathy and understanding.

For example you might be dong a free delivery offer for your customers to help them out during the crisis. Does it really convey the right impression of your company if they have to enter the code ‘Coronavirus’ at the checkout to get their free delivery?

Avoid Knee-Jerk Reactions; In a time of large behaviour changes it is tempting to just turn everything off as results are becoming unpredictable; Don’t. “Strategic Invisibility” is almost certainly the wrong choice; Customers still have wants and needs.

Instead, be ready to take advantage of opportunities where your competitors have already cut back. Take active involvement, tweak your campaign messages, and reach out to your customers and prospects where they are.

We hope you find our Communicating In A Crisis article helpful, If you have any comments or feedback we would love to hear from you.

For more helpful hints, tips, guides and info find us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn, or feel free to speak to your account manager if you have any questions or need any help.

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