In times of crisis, communication is a critical lifeline to connect humans and organizations. Providing transparent and ongoing communication helps you to stay in control of the crisis situation. Here are essential strategies you can apply for corporate communications to respond to the current COVID-19 crisis fast and efficiently.
The aftermath of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and the impact of the economic and social shutdown will hardly leave any business untouched.
Some businesses may find it easier to carry on than others. But most businesses are faced with severe interruptions due to store closures, changes in demand, supply chain issues or the imminent need to organize digital infrastructures for remote work, online-communication, meetings, and events.
New government decisions and guidelines are being announced on a daily basis and have to be applied with unprecedented speed.
Whether your business is directly or indirectly affected by the current situation, a large percentage of your staff and of your customers will be faced with some kind of disruption to their daily routines or their financial situation. They might be fearing for their health or the welfare of their families. Customers are becoming confused and unsettled due to the closing of shops and service points and an impending shortage of supplies. “Social Distancing” is taking its toll on human relations as well as on society.
Most people are currently overwhelmed by the mass of alarming information they will get from all kinds of sources. Rumors are spreading almost as fast as the virus itself. To prevent fake news, anxieties and panic, make sure everyone gets the information they need to stay calm, confident, and loyal.
6 pillars of corporate crisis communication
Your crisis communication should be basically built on:
- Current updates
A crisis situation is not the time to hide facts. If you don’t tell the truth and if your message is not deliberate and clear, you will risk an uncontrollable communication crisis on top.
Tell your audiences honestly:
- What is happening
- Your measurements to cope with the current situation
- What everyone else can do to help
- That there will be a day after and what will happen in the meantime
However, humans react very differently in a crisis situation. Make sure your communication is compassionate and everyone knows where to turn to with personal issues and anxieties.
Prepare for a consistent flow of current updates, breaking news, stories, and valuable content to tie your employees, customers, and communities to the important lifeline of communication.
To get your crisis information across, your messages should be:
- informative and relevant to the current situation,
- reliable and reassuring to build trust and maintain loyalty,
- guiding and assisting to help your audiences cope,
- supportive and encouraging for your audience,
- empathetic to keep up the spirit and build confidence,
- consistent and up-to-date as developments unfold.
3 Steps to set-up and roll out a masterplan for your corporate crisis communication
The first priority in a crisis situation should be to keep your team together and to inform your customers and the public to build trust and maintain loyalty. Streamline internal and external communication to make sure your company speaks with one voice.
Review your audience’s needs for information. Who needs to be informed? What information is needed and who needs it first and what ist the purpose of your information?
Step 1: Roles and responsibilities for crisis communication
A crisis is not the time for unnecessary bureaucracy and regulations. Instead, focus on empowering your staff. A pragmatic approach, efficiency, and speed are now your most critical resources.
- Mobilize all forces and empower your staff.
Note: Remember that employees are important influencers and a vital information channel to colleagues and to the world outside. If you provide them with the right information and enable them to spread the news, they can extend the reach of your information. Employees can also add trust and credibility to the information which will strengthen your overall reputation.
- Assign roles and responsibilities for all communication tasks.
- Tear down all communication barriers.
- Merge internal and external communication and centralize all information in one place.
Step 2: Collecting, compiling and publishing information for crisis communication
Make sure everyone gets and spreads the right information in time and that your company speaks with one voice:
- Identify the most likely questions your customers, employees and stakeholders might have:
- What is the most important information for each specific audience?
- How is your audience affected by the crisis, economically as well as emotionally?
- Provide answers and reassurance about the measures being taken and outline your expertise in crisis management.
- Make sure your communication and customer service teams have all the information, statements and updates in place as the situation develops.
- Prepare and provide links to more detailed information.
- Share important links and information from official and trusted sources, for example:
- WHO daily bulletins on the status of the virus and instructions for dealing with the virus
- COVID-19 myths for your strategies to respond to fake news and rumors
- Travel advisories and safety information from national health authorities and ministries for foreign affairs
- Announcements from ministries for embargoes, civil unrests or difficulties in obtaining materials as far as they affect your business
- Keep all information updated in real-time.
Step 3: Channels and seeding for crisis communication
- Review all the traditional and social media channels available to you and identify the best channels to reach out to your audiences, for example:
- Corporate website and blog
- Google My Business
- Press releases and ad hoc news
- Email and newsletters
- Push messages and in-app messaging
- Social networks: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube
- Message boards in communities, groups, and online-forums
- News websites and industry sites
- Podcasts and video channels
- Use visual content for better understanding and for adding a personal touch.
- Tailor your message to your audiences.
- Prepare for a consistent flow of information.
- Use tools for press-distribution and social media automation to help you to manage your publishing, scheduling and distribution process fast and efficiently.
What about marketing during the COVID-19 crisis?
A global crisis is definitely not the time for “marketing as usual”. Keep in mind, that all media outlets are covering current topics considering the virus. Even, if your business is still operating normally the crisis is not the time for publishing regular company announcements, new product releases or sales messages. They could be considered as insensitive or even as an attempt to make a profit from the crisis.
The crisis does not mean you cannot sell at all. However, there are certain methods and messages that you should avoid.
Apply crisis communication guidelines for marketing and social media: Keep your tone empathetic and your information guiding and assisting to help your audiences cope with the current situation. Take a look at Twitter recommendations for adjusting your brand voice for COVID-19.
Example: Air Anytime LLC announces to remain open despite COVID19 outbreak
Don’t hard sell – be helpful and supportive
Whether your business or store is closed or remains open, many brands are now encouraging their customers to shop online for protecting themselves and others. Other businesses are forced to find new ways to serve their customers online or by offering delivery services due to the closure of shops, locations, and offices. Some businesses are even profiting from the change of demand in the current situation.
Whatever your situation is:
- Adapt your sales messages to a helpful and supportive tonality.
- Offer special services, discounts or pay reliefs to those customers who might be most affected by the crisis.
- Donate or engage to help your local community or offer your services or products to people or organizations in need.
Adapt your editorial calendar and your marketing campaigns to the current situation
Review your scheduled content to delete any content the is not relevant to the current situation or adjust your tone and messages. There may be just some words you can change or trending hashtags you can add, just as #wearehereforyou #staysafe #stayconnected.
Content marketing is king in a crisis situation
People and organizations are currently confronted with unprecedented challenges to their daily lives as well as to their business environments. Helpful and assisting information to cope with the current challenges is very welcome. This kind of information will attract customers as well as prospects. For example,
Provide tips and guidelines relevant to your industry, for example:
- Tools and advice for home office settings and remote collaboration.
- How to set up video conferences, live-streaming events, or webinars.
- Tools and services to set up online shops and delivery services.
- Experience from yourself or your employees working at home.
Publish helpful information, tips, and advice on other problems your customers may be affected with during the crisis, such as:
- Tips for parents who are struggling with working in home office and handling child care in one place.
- Help and tips for families entertainment at home.
- Tools and advice for e-learning and online-schooling.
- Tips for healthy eating and cooking, home training, or how to cope with social isolation and quarantine.
- Valuable information about the virus and how to protect yourself (Note: only provide information from official and highly trusted sources)
Use this kind of content marketing as a safe way to promote your products and services. It will show your audience you understand their current needs. And, it will strengthen your reputation as an expert for their requirements.
Even, if you don’t use this information to promote your own products and services, these kinds of information help to foster the relationship with your audience when you have no current business news to report. It will create trust and loyalty in your community.
How to use marketing tools and channels for publishing and seeding during the crisis
The call for social distancing and self-isolation to prevent the spread of coronavirus drives more and more people to turn to social media as their primary means of connecting with friends and the outside world. This means social media will be your primary channel for connecting with your customers:
- Update all current information and news on your website and blog.
- Update changes regarding your service options and contact information on Google My Business and your social media profiles and pages.
- Inform customers, partners and other subscribers via email, in-app and push-notifications.
- Use social media for the initial response as well as for a consistent flow of business updates, help content and also for sharing valuable information and tips to cope with the crisis.
- Share your crisis communication content and messages across all available social media channels to make sure your messages will reach your audiences.
Social media automation tools will help you to publish, share and cross-share current information on all available communication channels in real-time. However, use tools that enable you to tailor your messages to each channel and communities and at the best time to reach out to your audience.
The dynamic of the COVID-19 crisis is a huge challenge for corporate communication. Responding to the current crisis with transparent and empathetic messages will help your business build trust and maintain loyalty and commitment from employees, customers ad other stakeholders. If you don’t grab this opportunity and focus the whole power of your corporate communication on crisis communication, you will create uncertainty or damage the reputation you have build. This crisis communication guide and tools will ensure to roll out your messages fast and efficiently will help you to stay in control of the situation as developments unfold.
Learn more about what your team needs to do when crisis hits, in this great infographic from Influential.