Communicating in a Crisis

The world changed significantly with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and it has quickly shifted the way many small businesses operate. Some businesses are closed until further notice, while others have shifted to online ordering for delivery or curbside pickup. Other companies are busier than ever, especially those that support businesses who are shifting how they operate.

When a crisis hits, it’s important to evaluate how your business communicates and adjust accordingly. Although this is the biggest disruption we’ve seen in a while, communicating in a crisis doesn’t just mean this magnitude of crisis. The same principles apply for tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, local disasters or acts of terrorism, and even an internal crisis that only affects your business.

Here are three key steps your business should take for marketing and communications in the midst of crisis.

Take a step back and evaluate your messages

Many small businesses have pre-scheduled content for social media, emails, or other marketing efforts. Some of that content might have sounded perfectly fine a few weeks ago when you wrote it. But does it sound out of touch or heartless now? Does it make sense considering the state of the world? Is it still relevant?

Take some time to evaluate all of your current messaging and make adjustments as needed.
If you’re a retail store with scheduled posts encouraging clients to come shop your store but your community is under a stay-at-home order, you obviously need to update those posts to something else. But sometimes the changes are more subtle. If you send an automated birthday email to customers every year, check the language and update it to acknowledge that it’s a challenging time but a birthday’s still worth celebrating. If that email includes a discount for purchase, consider extending the length of time the discount is valid.

Be human but also be true to your brand

Right now, there is a strong mentality of “we’re all in this together.” Businesses are adapting quickly, and many are taking extra steps to give back to their community. It’s perfectly okay to show the human side of your brand during a crisis and acknowledge that things are tough. But don’t stray too far from your brand’s voice overall. If your marketing presence is typically very professional, you don’t want to start sharing a bunch of memes that fit the crisis but don’t fit your brand. You do, however, want to acknowledge any challenges your business is facing and provide your customers tangible ways to support you.

Evaluate what you have to offer

Think about your business and what it has to offer, whether it’s tangible or intangible. You may have something that can still make you money, or you might simply focus on giving back where you can. Is there a way to authentically deliver your product or service in the midst of a crisis? Can you pivot in a way to authentically help your customers and encourage people to get through this? People want to see small businesses come out on the other side of any crisis, and communities are often ready to step up and help if they know how to help. Although it might look different than business as usual for a while, there may be another need your business can fill until things return to normal.

Don’t go silent

When crisis hits, many companies don’t know what to say so they don’t say anything at all. Even if you’re not able to operate as usual, you want to maintain your relationships with your customers. Post updates on social media, write a blog about how your business is adapting, and share insights that might be helpful for your audience. Your customers want to know what’s happening, and it’s important to keep feeding those social media algorithms so that your posts still get visibility when you’re back in action.

Consistency is always important in marketing, but it’s even more important in the midst of crisis. Take some time to evaluate your messages and what you have to offer so you can continue to communicate consistently and effectively during a crisis.

Need help with your messaging in the midst of the current crisis or want to be better prepared for any future crisis that your business might face? Reach out to us to chat.

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