As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps the world, it’s an anxious time for businesses. No one seems quite sure how to market themselves, especially if their products and services aren’t “essential.” There’s a fine line between helping customers and seeming opportunistic.
At Lyra Creative Studios, we’re experts in crisis communications, a set of principles and best practices that organizations can activate when disaster strikes. While these techniques are usually deployed when a business faces a threat such as a harassment scandal or a mass shooting, they’re effective in any situation where an organization needs to share critical information with its audience. Let’s go over the basics of crisis communication and how your company can best respond to Covid-19.
Just the Facts, Ma’am
Above all else, it’s essential that you focus on the facts, both about the virus and your company’s response to it. Don’t point fingers, don’t espouse conspiracy theories, and don’t get emotional. Keep your communications straightforward and neutral.
For example, a restaurant in Florida that was subject to a mandatory closure posted a sign blaming fake news for their shutdown. This was the wrong approach. Any customers concerned about the virus immediately felt alienated and even mocked by the sign, and the sign was unnecessarily political in the face of a decidedly nonpartisan scourge.
A good approach is one in which the organization notes the official guidance, such as the CDC’s recommendations to stay six feet apart, and explains that they are closed if they cannot comply with this recommendation. This is a simple statement, based on facts, that blames no one and gives a clear reason for the choice.
Silence is Golden
These days, customers are feeling anxious and bored, and they’re also inundated by brands blowing up their inboxes. Many companies are running “pandemic discounts” or sending platitudes to their customers. People are fatigued and sometimes angered by these messages. As is always the case in marketing, it’s important to only speak if you have something worth saying.
For example, some online services have been gleefully pushing their products. We’ve noticed a surge in emails from some companies that are clearly trying to capitalize on people who are bored at home. While this tactic may be effective, it does not meet the best practices of crisis communication.
Don’t misinterpret this principle to mean, “Say nothing.” Rather, focus on your key messages. What do people need to know about your response to Covid-19? Often, a kind message explaining how you’re keeping your customers and employees safe is sufficient. Remember, keep it simple and fact-based.
It Takes a Village
That said, now is a good time to embrace your organization’s community. People are hungry for connection more than sales, so why not send them great content and appreciative notes? Especially for small businesses, this is the perfect time to connect with your target audience and remind them why they care about your company.
As we mentioned above, a kind message goes a long way. However, you can also send out a newsletter explaining what’s going on behind the scenes, or prioritize your company blog’s high-value content rather than sales and business updates. Avoid rehashing your response to Covid-19 ad infinitum. Instead, focus on blogs, PDFs, ebooks, and other content that will make your audience feel informed and supported.
In a world that feels torn apart, every organization has an important opportunity to step up as a thought leader. In typical crisis communications, you’d want to position your organization as well-reasoned and supportive — even in the face of disaster. It’s no different when dealing with a disaster that affects more than just your business.
The principles of crisis communications ultimately revolve around doing what’s right — and during a pandemic, that means focusing on your community rather than your profits. Remember, consumers are taking note of how organizations respond to Covid-19. You want yours to be one that they remember as a leader, not an opportunist. One that was balanced and supportive, not biased and exploitative. By following these best practices, you can boost your company’s resilience in the face of the pandemic.
Need help with your crisis communications? Lyra Creative Studios is available to help you craft the perfect media releases, social media content, and blog posts. Reach out today.