In times of crisis, knowing the right way to communicate with your audience can seem impossible. People have different ways of interpreting messaging and it’s likely someone will take what you say negatively despite your best intentions. The fear of receiving this kind of response can put you off communicating with your audience at all. It’s best to not say anything than to say something wrong, right? This probably isn’t the way forward for your business and can do more harm than good to your reputation and relationships.
Navigating your marketing messaging through hard times is no easy task. It requires time, empathy and humanity to strike the balance between complying with company policy and supporting your customers. One thing’s for sure is that you can’t afford to put the breaks on your marketing communications. Your responsibility as a brand is to provide guidance and compassion during hardship and the last thing your audience needs is for someone else to not tell them what’s going on. Here’s our take on how to get your marketing message right during a crisis:
Brands that are emotionally intelligent can deliver support and compassion in the most valuable way. Your brand has to spend time understanding exactly what your audience is going through during this time. Look through your messages from customers and what they’re saying on social media to understand how they feel and the challenges they face. Money is tight, time is precious, activity has been suspended and they need a helping hand through it all. With a deep understanding of what your audience is experiencing, your brand can speak with true compassion and care. You can provide communications with purpose; delivering support your audience actually needs, not what you think they need.
Your language is so important here. Your words must be sensitive to be effective. Stay clear of sweeping statements, generalisations, jokes and metaphors. This language is the most at risk of being misunderstood and misinterpreted due to the unique circumstances of your customers. Think about the imagery and feelings your words will emote from your audience while reading your messaging. This will help guide your writing and whether your word choice is appropriate or achieves what you’re trying to convey. Showing empathy throughout your communications demonstrates to your audience that you truly care about their needs. Brands that approach communication with a cookie-cutter message will feel hostility from their audience.
Being empathetic is also about being timely and efficient. Don’t leave your audience waiting for ages for a response. They need to know you’re there for them right now and not be put on the back burner while you figure out what you want to say. With kind, compassionate and empathetic messaging, you’ll build stronger relationships with your audience who’ll remember the way you treated them during challenging times.
Faking your compassion will backfire for your brand and appear like you’re trying to capitalise on a crisis. Showing empathy will help you develop genuine communications as you fully understand the support you have to provide to your audience. It’s crucial that you don’t use a crisis as an opportunity to sell your products. Your audience will see right through it and view your brand in a negative light. The brands that come out of a crisis situation the best are those that provide value. Content is much more important to your audience than your product is. It’s hard to hear it but nobody actually needs your product, they need your support.
By understanding your customers’ wants, needs and challenges right now, you can create a content strategy full of helpful information. This includes blog posts, guides, ebooks, videos, webinars, podcasts and other forms of content that help your customers learn more or feel comforted by your expertise. Your bottom line will always be to make money but there are sensitive ways to achieve this. Sending out a brash email with discounts telling your customers to ‘buy now’ will leave a sour taste. This will cause a lot of resistance, particularly on social media, and can result in losing customers rather than gaining them.
Being real and transparent is your best approach. Providing messaging your audience feels enriched by, ensures they know you see the bigger picture beyond monetary gain. People need certainty in times of uncertainty and your brand can provide this with timely, transparent messaging. Honesty will help to improve your brand reputation, stand out to your audience and ensure you maintain a loyal customer base.
Following the same procedures and strategies you always have won’t help your brand move forward. You have to be flexible in your approach to marketing communications and take each individual scenario as it comes. Different customers have different problems and you can’t approach them all with blanket statements. Taking the time to understand each individual need ensures you can provide a tailored response to their challenge. Showing compassion and care for your individual users will help you develop strong relationships.
Spending time and money creating a campaign you’re proud of but is no longer relevant to the current climate can feel like a waste. It’s important to remember that your audience will appreciate the thought and courage it’s taken to place these on hold and create something pertinent to the times. You should pause your current content schedule and review each campaign with a critical eye. Look closely at the message, imagery and goal to understand whether it’s relevant anymore. Cancelling campaigns and advertising is disheartening but it’s going to be right for your audience.
Carrying on as usual by publishing something that’s insensitive to what everyone is going through, even though unintentionally, won’t sit right with your audience. Even if you probably can’t publish the campaign you had planned, don’t miss out on new opportunities to provide value. If you know the problems your customers are facing, answer them honestly and efficiently. Let them know that you’re now offering delivery, how they can contact you for a refund, where to find important updates or where to find helpful resources. This agility will help you remain considered and relevant. Not jumping on a trend but giving your audience exactly what they need by offering your services and expertise.
These are three ways to strike the right tone with your marketing communications during a crisis. Your audience will need careful attention and a lot of time to truly understand how you can support them through hardship. The key is to be empathetic, transparent and flexible. Your brand has to find the balance between moving forward with your business goals while being an aid to your audience. You should stay active and engaged with conversations your customers are having to keep your brand at the forefront of their minds. With a proactive and consistent approach to your marketing communications, you can work through a crisis situation confidently. At the other end will be a strong customer base full of loyal people that value your support and are in it for the long-run.