When crisis knocks, changes in attitude and behavior are inevitable. And because of that, shifting the way we communicate to be empathetic to those changes is critical. Now is the time for businesses to focus on growing mind share and market share with employees, customers and our community.
Look at the attitudes and behaviors you see in the market now to determine the best messages to convey. With changes in buying, selling, working, eating and traveling, assess what money is being spent on, how people are feeling, what matters most to people and where they are getting information.
Companies who prepare for how to meet the needs of their employees and customers both now and later will be the ones who come out on the other side with stronger relationships and strengthened brand loyalty. Consider what to expect in 30 days, 90 days, six months and one year later.
These five communication strategies can help you think beyond the here and now to build momentum for the future:
- 1. Anticipate needs and alter marketing plans accordingly.
- Consider how you can be a superhero for your employees’ and customers’ needs.
- Find ways to increase personalized connectivity to keep services running – curbside pickup, front door deliveries or virtual personalized shopping experiences.
- Empathize with feelings of stress, boredom, uncertainty or loneliness and meet people where they are – provide information to assure, calm and entertain.
- 2. Seek opportunities around attitudes and behaviors.
- With internet usage on the rise, leverage technology to entertain members or season pass holders with virtual performances or exclusive artist interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
- People staying indoors creates an opportunity to ramp up content and advertising on social media channels to ensure messages are seen.
- Increased wine consumption at home means it’s prime time to create virtual wine tastings and educate on wine pairings.
- 3. Focus on humanity and connectivity.
- Place humanity at the core of everything you say and do – demonstrate unceasing understanding, compassion and concern.
- Be positive and focus on customer experience more than ever.
- Retailers whose doors are closed can connect genuinely with handwritten notes to customers thanking them for their loyalty, offering private shopping experiences and enclosing a gift card or coupon code to use later.
- Be sensitive and adapt to the ever-changing environment. Unlike in a recession where the economy was the central focus, COVID-19’s economic impact is compounded by a public health crisis, government crisis, social crisis and information crisis.
- 4. Engage, educate and enlighten.
- Think about what resources and expertise you have to offer, then find creative ways to share that knowledge to benefit others.
- Bars and restaurants can use social media channels to gather emails for a newsletter offering tips and recipes on how to make cocktails and favorite foods at home from your own kitchen.
- Museums and tourist attractions currently closed to the public can be a resource to teachers, parents and students by providing virtual experiences and educational opportunities.
- 5. Build relationships through helping, not selling.
- Service businesses, like bankers, accountants and lawyers, can build stronger relationships with customers by providing information to help navigate the crisis and prepare for the future.
- Promote community by using your resources and your voice to support other businesses – sharing curbside pickup services at retailers, to-go dining options at restaurants, critical support services needed at non-profit organizations and much more.
- Consider how you can use your voice or sales channels to help your community and give back to organizations in need.
Our community is craving information and connectivity, and using creative ways to communicate will help you stay top of mind. Many businesses are already exercising their creative juices to flex operations and using communications to maintain loyalty.
The Haberdasher knows people need good food and liquid courage right now so they’re serving up hot, spicy crawfish and daiquiri kits with Campesino rum to go.
Thinking of those who may be bored or need entertainment, DIY enthusiast, producer/co-host of Today’s Homeowner and creator of the web series Checking In With Chelsea Chelsea Lipford Wolf shows a few easy ways to refresh your bedroom during quarantine using items you already have around the house.
The Cheese Cottage took its knowledge of all things cheese to Facebook Live to educate fans on how to create the perfect cheese board. They’re also engaging followers by asking for comments with questions about wine and cheese in order to create a series of videos for their social media channels
Giving “staying strong” during quarantine a new meaning, Naturally Strong with Nonie is teaching her in-studio classes through online virtual workouts not only for adults but also for kids too. Virtual offerings include live classes, recorded workouts, Kids Active Bingo, recipes, support and accountability for followers. And even more, she is offering her virtual services free to nurses and doctors in an effort to support her community and give back to others.
Thinking about teachers, parents and students in virtual learning settings, GulfQuest is educating and entertaining followers with how-to science experiments each Tuesday and Thursday and hosting a weekly trivia contest, all through its social media pages.
With a message of Stay Safe, Stay Local and Stay Connected, Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting a series of daily teleconferences for its members to provide resources and information on timely topics impacting businesses. Topics include the newly-signed legislation for the Cares Act, IT security best practices for working remotely, communicating through crisis, financial resources available for payroll protection, emergency leave act implications for employers, and updates from government leaders.
Shifting communications to build brand awareness will help you gain mind and market share when the crisis is over. Communicating through a crisis is like managing any other difficult situation. We can either give in, give up or give it our all. Give it your all.
Jennifer Jenkins, APR is founder and president of JJPR Agency, a public relations and marketing agency in Daphne, Alabama. JJPR helps businesses tell their stories and grow their bottom line through strategic integrated communications including community engagement, media relations, social media, traditional and digital advertising, email marketing branding and websites.