How you communicate during a crisis is often as important (sometimes more important) than how you act.
Crises are unpredictable, they can happen quickly and most people are unsure what’s happening (and often how serious it is).
Keeping messages consistent, clear and empathetic is vital for everyone involved in communications.
Unfortunately, what we’re seeing right now has also shown the other side of communicating in a crisis.
This is when some in the marketing and communications world try to take advantage of everyone talking about one topic and look to “jump on the bandwagon” and shoehorn their company into it.
In the last few weeks, along with the important messages we’ve had from health services, governments and medical experts, we’ve seen an increasing number of marketing and sales content creeping into inboxes - as if this was a good trend to try and use as a sales opportunity.
While there are times when a new trend can be good to use as a hook for your marketing message, a crisis isn’t one of them.
But if you’re genuinely able to offer a solution to a problem there are a few things to consider when it comes to getting your message across properly.
A CRISIS ISN’T A “HOOK” FOR YOUR SALES COMMUNICATION
If you’re thinking of trying to use a crisis as a hook for your next email campaign, or any marketing campaign for that matter, you might want to think again.
Especially if your product offers no value and isn’t related at all to what’s happening.
As much as the profiteering little voice in the back of your head could make you think customers might just be tempted to buy from you now, chances are they won’t.
They have bigger things to worry about.
But not only will they not buy from you now, they will likely remember your business as the one that tried to use a crisis as a sales opportunity and refuse to come to you later.
No matter how tempted you are, the brand damage you can do isn’t worth it.
Bikewear brand Polaris unfortunately fell into this trap when their email offering a “pandemic promotion sale” dropped into inboxes of those in their database.
Their website content didn’t carry the same message, but you can see how this might be taken as bad taste.
This Linkedin post from Caspian Insurance doesn’t fare much better given the current situation (although it may be just an oversight to delete scheduled posts that could come across a bit opportunistic if sent at the wrong time)
GET THE TIMING RIGHT
While trying to sell and profit out of a crisis is a complete no, if you do offer something (be it solutions, advice or anything else) that is useful to people going through a crisis, you should be communicating this information quickly and efficiently.
Lack of timely information is a key factor in any crisis escalating so if you can genuinely help people prepare for it or get through it easier, tell them.
And be consistent with providing useful information that people can use, as long as you’re sure of the facts and benefits being communicated then people (be they members of the public or customers of a business) will ultimately thank you for it.
TONE IS EVERYTHING
Whenever you’re communicating to people in a crisis, it is vital that you remain empathetic to what they need. This is about providing value to them, it’s not your time to shine.
Make it clear that you understand the problems they’re having and provide them with information and advice to get through it.
If you have a tool that can help your customers’ businesses change how they work, tell them simply how it improves what they do.
For example, adapting to working from home has been challenging for some businesses lately and many will have been unsure exactly how to go about doing it.
This is definitely a fine line to walk, and that’s why being empathetic and not trying to sell is so important. Some of your customers will genuinely be struggling and looking for help, if you can provide them with that help, you should.
We use some tools ourselves which have certainly helped us quickly get to grips with changing how we currently work.
There's some more info on those tools in this blog
There is always a balance to running a business and trying to make sales while being sensitive to the wider mood during a time of crisis.
No-one is expecting businesses to stop trying to sell (they still need to make money to pay people) but there is an expectation that they won’t use a crisis as an opportunity to increase sales.
Using the crisis, by the way, isn't the only way to harm your sales chances. There's a few more detailed here
Communicating in a crisis comes down to one simple question. Are you adding value?
Not to yourself, but for customers.
Communicating a clear message that provides valuable information to your customers is ultimately what every business should be doing all the time, but in a crisis this kind of communication could be invaluable.
By being mindful of how you put your message across (be wary of even helpful information coming across as salesy) you can cut through the marketing nonsense and bad taste sales tactics and become an invaluable resource for customers. Something they won’t quickly forget.
If you're worried about your business at this trying time, then please use our free marketing comparison tool below.
But this isn't a shameless plug of our services, honest.
We just want to make sure that when all this is over, you're well positioned to get back on track as soon as possible.
Not only is the tool free to use, but we've also ungated and made free all the relevant 'how-to-guides' you will need if there is anywhere you can improve.
We just hope it helps...