How to communicate in a crisis

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POSTED ON 14th May 2020

Have you ever had that experience when you open up to someone about something you are going through and they tell you to focus on the positives, or compare your experience to one that they had that they believe was just as hard or worse?  I don’t know about you, but I know I’ve been left feeling misunderstood or unsupported and overall unfulfilled. You reached out to someone and were left lacking.

Whilst whoever I was speaking to probably had great intentions and thought they were doing the right thing, somehow it didn’t feel that way.

It’s the same in marketing. As business owners and marketers, we still need to communicate with customers and drive sales. The word itself feels like a dirty word in an environment where people are losing their jobs, their health, loved ones, their way of life and their ability to connect with each other.

So how do you keep the wheels turning but communicate in a way that is sensitive to the times we are living in?

Communicate and communicate often

The worst you could do is “go dark”.  Now is a time to ramp up your communications not disappear because you are not sure what to say. A recent study has revealed that consumers want to hear from brands and they want to hear from them regularly.  Twitter released results of a study saying that 52% of those surveyed said seeing or hearing ads gave them a sense of normalcy. Communicating regularly with customers, acknowledging their challenges and offering solutions will help keep your brand top of mind but within the context of what is going on.

Find a way to help

Whilst the Twitter survey showed us people still want to hear from brands,  77%  of those surveyed agreed that they feel more positive about brands that are making an effort to support society.

A great example is Unilever’s brand, Dove. A brand that has long been seen to be socially aware.  Dove created a video for release across social media that demonstrated the best way to wash your hands for reduced risk. This was done in unison with Unilever announcing  $100 million in product donation, including the donation of face masks to New York City Hospitals.

Change the tone

A resounding outcome of Twitter’s study is that only 7% of those surveyed said brands should continue using their normal brand tone of voice. Now is the time to spend some time as a team determining who is the voice of your brand and what your tone of voice needs to be, in the context of your brand values, what your customers are experiencing, and the crisis overall.

KFC were recently held to account by the Advertising Standards Authority for continuing to run ads promoting “finger licking goodness” in a time when personal hygiene can potentially lead to life or death for someone in the community. Neglecting to change the tone of their advertising to it the context of the times did significant brand damage and led to consumer complaints and discontent.

Similarly, using the situation to take advantage of the crisis, if any promotion you are doing is seen to be totally self-serving and doesn’t pass on benefits or help in some way is a risky move.

Bring some gravitas

Consumers want to hear from experts and leaders. This is the time for the CEO of the business to be front and centre for your brand and be communicating as well.  Sharing data on their own research around what their customers are experiencing to demonstrate an understanding and also what they are doing to support their employees and keep customers safe.

Don’t be afraid to break transmission

People are anxious and exhausted. Don’t rule out also sharing content that’s unrelated to the pandemic. You might still need to launch that new product or promote the sale of stock that you’ve ordered in pre-pandemic times.  Just make sure that your message is within the context of what is going on right now.  Keep selling but perhaps over a lower shipping fee on online orders, extend your returns policy or offer different payment options.

Last but not least, keep going. It’s tough but if we all work together, we will help each through and have brands that are respected and valued for how we all handled a tough time and helped.

If you would like help in repositioning your communications, we’re here and happy to chat and no obligation to you. Simply get in touch and one of our expert consultants will be able to help guide you through. 

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