Managing Your Message in the Midst of a Crisis

As the pandemic drags on, many of our clients are adapting and looking for ways to keep their businesses running with minimal losses. While some companies are cutting their ad budgets, others are shifting ad spend to digital and social channels, beefing up efforts to remain “connected” to customers through this difficult, unsettling time.

According to a recent report by GlobalWebIndex, which surveyed more than 13,000 global consumers, conducted between March 16-20, they found that 95% of consumers are spending more time on in-home media consumption and activities, with 45% of them devoting more time to social media.

Other clients who have been forced to change how they do business are having to rethink how they market and communicate to their customers. Here are a few approaches we recommend.

Break Down Your Audiences’ Behaviors

While this is great information for any business owner or marketer, don’t just take our word for it. Use your research to study your audiences’ behaviors and tailor your message toward them. For instance, if your audience skews to an older, male-dominant audience, live streams on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram might not be the right approach for you. On the flip side, if you cater to a millennial and/or Gen Z crowd, this might be the perfect tactic to keep them engaged with your brand.

Adapting to New Ways of Doing Business

We’re seeing clients shift their canceled in-person events to digital events through webinars or Facebook Live. Our retail clients are offering online shopping with curbside pickup. Some are also adding free shipping and returns. We’ve seen many businesses offering online gift cards to be redeemed for services at a later (and safer) date. These tactics are typically successful for those businesses with an active and robust relationship on their social channels and healthy engagement in their email automation programs. Local businesses that have invested in building an online community for their brand are reaping the rewards of brand affinity and loyalty.

Review/Update Your Messaging

Most of our clients are adjusting their messaging to reflect the changing needs and expectations of their audiences during this time. To stay in business, mitigate financial losses and support your employees, you have to sell your product or service. While your transparency about how you’re trying to take care of your employees can be part of your messaging, you must be sensitive to the fact that many people have been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and many more have lost – or are afraid they may lose – their jobs. In short, it is vitally important at this moment to humanize your brand voice.

Determine how much you should stay in touch. Your customers are your community. Let them know how you’re responding to the coronavirus pandemic, how you’re conducting business or if you’re closed, how you plan to reengage them when you reopen. Ask how you can support them during this crisis. Ask them to join you in supporting a local non-profit.

Make sure you’re sending the right messages to the right audiences. Your employee messaging will be different than your loyal customer messaging, which is different than your vendor messaging. Some key points will be shared with all, but time spent personalizing the message to each different audience is time well spent. Finally, meet your audiences wherever they are with updates to your homepage, on your social media channels, on your internal employee channels or with vendor emails. Refer to the Global Web Index report to tailor your message for the applicable audience and platform.

Plan for the Future

While we don’t know when this will be completely over, we do know that there will be a time when we all return to a new normal. While it may make sense to pause right now on most of your 2020 marketing goals and campaigns, pausing with sales promotion may not actually mean you pause entirely. In fact, many clients are taking this “down time” to better acquaint their customers with their products and their people. Some clients are sharing “news” about their industry in addition to their company-specific plans. Some clients are offering more personal insights into the employees, vendors and suppliers behind their brands.

Planning ahead is critical, particularly if even suppressed demand for your product or service may make the days and weeks before and immediately after reopening extremely chaotic. Consider how to position your reopening in a way that feels appropriate and acknowledges everyone’s new normal. As always, stay true to your brand. Willingness to adapt, respond and communicate with all your audiences in these uncertain times will provide the best roadmap for moving your business forward in the weeks and months to come.

Learn how industry leaders have shifted their communications practices during this time by watching our recent webinar, Pivoting in the Pandemic: Proactive Messaging for our New Normal. Included is a helpful playbook that will equip you to stay relevant with your audiences during this time.

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

Kym Koch-Thompson

Principal