The way a company communicates during a crisis matters a great deal. It shapes how a customer, prospect and even employees think about your company.
Today, every business is dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak in some way or another.
For most businesses, there is a significant financial loss. People have cancelled travel and leisure plans. All sports have been cancelled. Malls and restaurants are empty. Schools are closed, which means child care is a huge concern.
Many companies are encouraging their employees to work remotely. Companies who are closed are trying to figure out how to pay their staff. Independent contractors and hourly-wage employees have no idea how they are going to get through this crisis financially.
So much is happening so quickly. Many people are distraught. Others are in a state of shock and disbelief.
How are you communicating during this crisis? What messages are you sharing?
Jessica Nable is an expert in corporate reputation. She explains that companies really need to be thinking about their communication with their stakeholders during challenging times. Good communication during a crisis is what makes a company stand out. It helps inspire.
She says these are the key factors in your crisis management communications.
This is not the time to stay silent with your employees, customers, and other stakeholders. Even if you don’t have all the answers, rapid and regular communications can help alleviate potential concerns.
If you don’t let your employees and customers know what you’re doing to handle the current crisis, they will wonder if it’s a priority to you at all.
Employees will want to know how expectations are changing and how you are planning to keep them healthy and safe.
Customers will also want to know how you are planning to keep them safe. For example, if you have a brick-and-mortar location, you want to reassure them that you are taking every precaution. Let them know how you’re sanitizing and cleaning and providing hand sanitizer at every register and table.
Make sure they know that you are open during this time and welcome their business.
Remember, if you don’t communicate this, they don’t know you are doing it.
Use a variety of marketing channels to get the message across
Businesses tend to rely on email because it’s inexpensive, and fast. However, consumers’ inboxes are totally overwhelmed right now with marketing messages.
You need to make sure you reach your audience with time-sensitive, developing information. Think of the marketing channels you use that they respond best to. Consider using the same channels that resonate with your stakeholders.
Social media works well for this.
You might also consider direct mail to your customers, once the crisis has passed and you have concrete information to share. A well written letter, with facts, figures and information will go a long way in terms of your reputation management.
Be helpful. Do not exploit the situation
This is not the time for coronavirus discounts or using scare tactics.
Businesses should focus on providing helpful information and reassuring their customers and employees. Clorox has done a good job of providing valuable educational content on its website.
Honesty counts. It’s what people ultimately trust, especially when you’re communicating during a crisis.
Leverage credible, reliable sources
There is a tremendous about of misinformation going around. It’s always important to present factual and accurate information. Right now it’s crucial.
Corona beer has nothing to do with the coronavirus. Being able to hold your breath for 15 seconds does not mean you are immune to the virus.
Eventually the crisis will pass and our businesses will go back to normal. It’s how we handled the communication during the crisis that customers, prospects and employees will remember.
Special Article for Non-Profit Agencies – Does Your Agency Have a Crisis Marketing Plan?
Listen to DataDale’s You-Tube presentation on Crisis Marketing.