One of the most important lessons we’ve learned from the Coronavirus outbreak is just how woefully unprepared we are when something out of the ordinary happens that affects our business.
Along with any business continuity program that you should be ready to break out in times of a sudden, unfortunate turn of events, so too should you have a communication and marketing strategy ready to go.
With that in mind, what do I need now to have a solid communication and marketing strategies for my business during a crisis?
- Have a crisis management team
- Circle the wagons
- Consider your different scenarios (and your options)
- Use the right communication channels
- Develop your marketing contingency plans
- Find alternative methods to deliver
- Prevent the spread of misinformation
These seven tips will help you refine your marketing and communication strategy during a crisis, allowing you to respond to and update your customers (as well as fans and followers) in a timely (and appropriate) manner.
1. Have a Crisis Management Team
Just like the COVID-19 global pandemic, there’s absolutely no way to anticipate what might happen in any disaster scenario. However, when a crisis does happen, it’s important that you take the right measures so you can swiftly respond if and when one occurs.
Chose a a select group of people in your company to be your crisis management team. This team will be responsible for any communication that goes out to your employees and to the public.
Ideally, you’ll want an executive member or two, as well as some key marketing, comms, or PR personnel on this team. Alternately, work with a digital marketing agency or a public relations company in case your organization doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to do so.
- Designate an in-house spokesperson for official statements or quotes.
- Have a training session amongst team members so they know their roles to fulfill during a crisis scenario.
- Have a process for briefing your spokesperson, especially if they need to interact with the media or the press.
2. Circle the Wagons: Protect Your People
You’ll want to keep running a tight ship, because especially in a time of crisis, fear and uncertainty can create room for misinformation and inappropriate responses or actions.
Create a wiki page for internal comms use. Employees can find essential information regarding the crisis (such as steps management is taking in response to the situation), updated work policies, and regular updates.
As soon as your crisis management team has a course of action ready, reassure your employees. Making them feel that you have their best interests in mind can go a long way towards preserving team morale.
Adjust operations to ensure the safety and security of your employees. In the case of the COVID-19 crisis, for example, employees were encouraged to work from home instead. Customer-facing employees were required to practice social distancing and stricter guidelines for hygiene to minimize the likelihood of catching the virus.
3. Consider Your Different Scenarios (and Your Options)
Focusing on the issue at hand, your crisis team has to figure out how the present situation would impact your organization and its stakeholders (which includes your investors, suppliers, vendors, and other business partners).
How events will play out is a matter of speculation, but it’s a good practice to develop holding statements and response packages corresponding to every possible scenario.
What is a holding statement? A holding statement addresses the current crisis and the steps your brand is taking to address the situation. Remember, your holding statement should be:
- Free of speculations or unverified updates.
4. Use the Right Communication Channels
In the same way that you have an internal wiki for your organization, you should also have a dedicated page on your website that can have regular updates concerning the current situation and action items your company has put together to address it.
In some cases, your crisis management team will be expected to interact with media groups or the press for the occasional official statement. So you’ll have to prepare for that as well.
For anything you release to the public, make sure you have your official statement up on your official website, social media channels, and email newsletter to communicate consistently and clearly.
This also means that you not only have to be ready to respond proactively and reach out to customers to reply to their queries, complaints, and seek feedback, but you also have to bring up your social listening game.
5. Develop Marketing Contingency Plans
Your well-defined communication plan is just one part of your overall strategy. Take note that you have to figure out your marketing plans as well. Specifically, given the current situation:
- Which marketing activities will you be putting on hold or scaling back?
- Conversely, which marketing activities can you double down on or scale up?
- Will you need to shift your marketing budget elsewhere?
- What are your predictions for the short-term and for the long-term?
Just as we have learned during this Coronavirus crisis, markets can just as suddenly flip on its head, with consumer behavior shifting just as drastically. As such, we’ve learned how to adjust our marketing activities accordingly, with some brands managing to come up with creative and innovative results for their own businesses.
6. Find Alternatives to Deliver (on Your Promises)
Creativity, of course, doesn’t end with just your marketing efforts. Given the current situation and your available options, figure out how you can still deliver on your commitments and promises to your customers.
In the case of the Coronavirus outbreak, for example, the industries hardest hit are hospitality, retail, events, and SMBs. But some event companies, for example, have shifted towards virtual events such as webinar series and online trade fairs. Meanwhile, some restaurants continue to operate but only offer curbside pickup or takeout food orders. Retail stores have also turned to ecommerce to continue selling their products.
Channeling your creative energy during times of crisis can uncover new opportunities where you can leverage your brand’s strengths and bring in new streams of revenue for your business.
7. Prevent the Spread of Misinformation
Even during non-crisis situations, we must always be very careful with our sources of news and information. Big tech companies like Facebook and Google have especially been more proactive when it comes to curbing phishing attempts, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and even going so far as removing ads and channels that are of dubious intent.
In the early stages of any given crisis, the news might not always have the right information because facts are only just coming out and aren’t readily available. Your crisis team, therefore, should always make the effort to vet and evaluate your news and news sources before making any decisions and cascading your communication plans down the line.
A Final Word on Creating a Communication and Marketing Strategy in a Crisis
When business conditions can suddenly take a turn for the worse (such as during the COVID-19 global outbreak), your organization can certainly be more resilient and more well-prepared with a well-defined communication protocol in place, along with an accompanying marketing plan.
All of us have been caught unprepared, and even today, much remains uncertain. Now’s a good as time as any to start working on designating a crisis management team for our respective companies and brands. Develop your communication and marketing strategy now, enact what you can, and document your notes on this crisis to prepare you better for the next one.