During a time of intense uncertainty, it can be difficult to know how, what and when to communicate and what crisis communication strategies to apply.
The Covid-19 situation is constantly evolving, and there is a fine line between coming across as insensitive or being guilty of virtue signalling.
So how can you give yourself the best chance of hitting the mark with your communication efforts?
Here we look at 5 crisis communication strategies that can help you communicate with confidence.
1. Stay true to your brand
Use your brand purpose, vision, mission, and values as a guide to remind yourself what your brand stands for, and what that means in the context of Covid-19.
This is not the time to look to others and copy what they are doing, but rather to set yourself apart by being authentic, keeping the focus on your own customers and finding ways to meet their needs in a way that makes sense for your business.
It goes without saying that the Covid-19 crisis is not a marketing opportunity to capitalise on, and companies who do so, risk alienating their customers and damaging their reputation. However, if you can create relevant and useful content that focuses on helping your customers can navigate their newfound situation, then do so.
This is a great way to build trust, and reinforce your position, while at the same time, staying true to your brand.
2. Be proactive and offer help if you can
Depending on your line of business, your customers may be counting on you even more than usual during a crisis.
Make it easy for them to find information they need about changes to your business and how it affects them, e.g. banners on your website, email updates, chatbot – by being proactive, you can help avoid that customer service employees have to deal with the same questions over and over again.
If there are ways that you can offer help, then consider doing so. For example, offering free online resources, relaxing payment deadlines (if feasible for you), providing special services to at risk groups etc.
If you’re not sure how you can help, don’t be afraid to ask. Belgian fashion chain Cameleon recently invited customers to let them know the kind of engagement they would appreciate in the coming weeks, and stressed their wish to help create and maintain community.
Showing that you’re doing your best in uncertain times, and are ready to listen, can go a long way.
3. Audit your content queues and automated emails
While you don’t necessarily need to stop publishing or sharing ‘business as usual’ content, e.g. planned initiatives or campaigns, you should carefully review all outgoing messages to make sure they are still relevant and could not be perceived as insensitive.
For example, jokes or word play that might have worked well a few months ago might fall flat now, and you might want to replace images focusing on groups of people or busy events. You might even decide to postpone or cancel certain campaigns entirely.
Automated emails and push notifications may also need to be updated to reflect the latest information – including government guidelines and/or messages from trusted sources – and make sure the messaging and tone are appropriate.
With situations changing fast, what might have felt like a good message to send yesterday might not be the right thing today.
4. Inspire your audience with positive stories
Even in difficult times, there are always ways to find positive messages that can comfort or inspire. A crisis can help reset, or reinforce, our values, and stories of connection and community may be even more welcome and appreciated than in the past. Consider using your social media feeds as a way to keep your customers inspired and encouraged.
For example, stories about citizens who are helping others, solidarity with medical personnel, how digital communication is keeping people connected, fund-raising efforts, or even stories about other companies (through perhaps not your competitors) who are going above and beyond to help others, whether on a local or global level.
5. Focus on your customers at all times
Though the Covid-19 crisis is undoubtedly unchartered territory, ensuring that your communication is customer-focused and empathetic are some of the most important foundations for building and maintaining trust.
Keep the perspective of your target audience in mind at all times, and focus on how your company can contribute to either improving their situation, or if that’s not possible, to maintain critical customer connections as we all live through this challenging period.