Strong Crisis Comms Need Emotion & Truth
Updated: Feb 7
Like all of us, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks glued to news outlets, Twitter, Instagram, podcasts, & other channels to keep myself & my family informed about covid-19.
And, if I'm honest, I'm feeling pretty much at saturation point from an emotional & intellectual standpoint when it comes to what's ahead.
Right know we’re living in a time of heightened uncertainty & unknowns. The impact of this current global pandemic is just beginning to trickle into daily life for individuals, communities, & businesses worldwide.
The tidal wave will come. It's up to us to prepare for riding it to shore or heading for the hills.
Closer to home here in New Zealand, despite the attempt of many businesses to go ahead in a quasi-BAU state, there’s one thing I am certain of right now: we're in crisis-mode. Our nation is on official #lockdown, & so far we're all doing okay - but the pendulum feels like it's swinging.
What do I mean by that? Well, unfortunately what I'm noticing right now is that the businesses who need them most don’t seem to have clear, concise, & customer first crisis-plans in place for times like this. Our timelines, newsfeeds, ad centres, & TV screens are filled to the gills with a glut of advertising & content that it inward-looking instead of outward-facing.
My hot take on moving quickly & impactfully when it comes to communications during uncertain times is simple. Right now is the time to stop your BAU. I repeat: STOP YOUR BAU. With everything stopped - if only for a short moment - take note of culture, context, content, & the community around you. Listen to fears, doubts, hopes, dreams & worries. Empathise with doubt. Then, when you're ready, start putting pen to paper & planning out a content strategy that isn't about you. Put together a plan that aims to add value at all times. A plan that aims to put more kindness & connectedness into the world.
For almost two decades I’ve worked with big & small brands alike not only to create clever & innovative campaigns across new & emerging channels - but to write crisis comms & community best practice to ensure brands responding with kindness, impact, & best practice at heart when it comes to communicating through social & digital media in times of crisis.
So here’s a gentle few things big, small, & sole-trader brands alike can do right now to ensure that what you’re putting into the world is kind, not tone-deaf. That how you’re responding to people in need is helpful, not distant.
If your content calendar & media buying is done well in advance, stop all activity now. Look at & evaluate every placement. Take note of assets, products, words, & the tonality of content you’re putting into the world. If your comms are intended to be “cheeky” in good times, they’ll sound flippant at best right now.
Check your words. It goes without saying, but the biggest faux pas that a business can make right now is to post or send out a communication that hasn’t been seen by more than one set of eyes. Without any malice meant, in times like these words matter. Messages matter. Thought & empathy matter. Read, re-read, & consider everything you put into the world as a business.
If you’re scheduled to crow about financial performance or any kind of profit, put that on hold through consumer facing channels for the foreseeable future. Sure, share with your board & major stakeholders - but right here, right now, people need emotional reassurance. Profit talk isn’t going to help your brand when all we see are falling markets & trends towards recessions with huge global repercussions.
Make sure you have enough resource available to handle customer conversations & community feedback. If you know it’ll be a stretch to have people monitoring & responding to questions across all channels, then be super overt about where you will be able to respond. Ask people to email you if email works best. If Facebook is where you can handle more customer interaction, ask people to head there specifically. Being super clear about where people can go for help is the kindest thing you can do for your staff as well as for your customers.
If you’re a big business, ensure your customer care teams are looked after. Taking care of the people who take care of customers & employees alike is of the utmost importance. Empower your frontline staff with information & the ability to be humble, kind, & caring at this time. There’s literally nothing worse you can do than have customer care people reading from scripts - unable to veer into emotive territory.
Have a plan around internal processes for signing-off official comms & statements, but make sure that your internal processes don’t hinder (or even sneak into) the conversations your representatives have with customers. Consumers want reassurance, not to know the ins-and-outs of your business. Your stress internally should not be placed onto the shoulders of already worried humans outside of your organisation.
Listen to your gut. If commonsense & expertise are worth anything during more certain & stable times, they’re worth everything during times of crisis. If something feels “off” or a communication sounds distancing more than connective, re-jig, re-write, re-think. Less is more in times of crisis.
If you’ll be laying people off or sending people home, have heart-felt words at the ready & empower your customer service teams to be human, caring, & kind in their responses. Crisis times aren’t times for “perfection.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The brands who most show their humanity through connecting authentically are those that people continue to love.
Hopefully these wee tips are helpful for you right now.
If you’re in need of a check-up, check-in, or simply need an extra set of eyes over your crisis plans or content during this time please reach out. I'm here & willing to help as best I can. As per usual, slide into my DMs here with any questions you might have.
Together we can put good into the world at scale. Together we can do just about anything. Together we must prioritise keeping each other safe right now.
Being respectful with our comms & content is the only way forward during this time.