2020 is being a year of disruption and uncertainty, and the impact seems to grow bigger as we transition from a public health crisis to an economic crisis. For brands and the business owners behind them, the key concern is how to maintain a customer base. Redrafting your marketing strategy can help, but so is investing in a genuine communication plan. In this post, we review the guidelines to deliver authentic communication in times of crisis in a way that builds trust and loyalty to your brand.
The Importance Of Authenticity
In crisis situations, it is important to remember that appearing as a genuine brand can help sustain trust. Of course, authenticity in communications needs to be underpinned by a deep sense of empathy for your customers and staff needs.
Sometimes it may be hard to stay on top of your stakeholders’ expectations, and especially in rapidly-changing situations like the one we live in now. In such cases, authenticity starts with:
- Asking for feedback frequently before problems happen. Be specific when requesting feedback and make sure you get a clear picture of how people are feeling and what they need. For example, someone who is anxious may need reassuring, whereas someone struggling with a sense of loss will benefit from learning about your vision for the future.
- -If you made a mistake, authenticity means admitting to it – the sooner you do it, the better.
Stick To The Basics
When communicating during a crisis, don’t be tempted to reinvent the wheel. Authentic communication is possible using the fundamental tools and techniques and of effective communication. So what exactly are those? Here are some suggestions:
- Find common pain points between your brand and your customers.
- Give facts, but don’t overwhelm people with numbers or jargon.
- Keep it conversational, not scripted.
- Don’t hide the negatives and balance them with the positives.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep. The main goal is to provide relevant information and to reassure the audience.
- Bring it back to your values, and explain how those values support your crisis response plan.
Building Your Crisis Communication Plan
A crisis communication plan is an internal document that will guide your company through the event, whether it is caused by natural disasters or health emergencies. At the very least, this document should include the following:
- The why: The reasons and context behind the crisis.
- The who: Specify who can activate the plan and establish a crisis communications team. You will want to appoint a spokesperson with excellent interpersonal skills too.
- The how: Outline how you will handle internal and external communications as well as the steps needed to manage them. Also, account for how you will evaluate the response to your communications – you need to know what’s working and what isn’t.
- The what: Include the communication channels or tools you will use (e.g. website, email, social media, press releases, etc.).
Remember that crises have stages and so should your communications plan. Each stage has an objective, so you will need to adapt the content of your communications as follows:
- Early stage: Clear instructional and informative messages.
- Mid stage: Practical information about how to adapt to the new situation.
- Final stage: A “what’s next” approach with a focus on recovery.
Five Additional Tips For Authentic Communication In Times Of Crisis
- Make sure you do not leave anyone behind, whether they are staff, contractors, suppliers, or neighbouring businesses. You want to be proactive and encourage dialogue with all your stakeholders.
- Communicate using your stakeholders’ preferred channels. Social media communications are effective to deliver a crisis response due to their reach and immediacy. Moreover, people are spending more time on those platforms now, but be aware that patterns of engagement have changed.
- Keep all crisis communications updates in the same place. This could be a microsite or an FAQ section.
- Acknowledge your weaknesses. Everyone feels vulnerable in a crisis, so admitting to it can build a genuine connection with your audience. Honesty and transparency are the main drivers of trust and can help strengthen your market position.
- Make it about people. Highlight the human factor when explaining how your organization is tackling the crisis.
Effective communication in times of crisis requires striking the right balance between being authentic on one side and managing the natural reactions of alarm and confusion. Now is the time to start planning a coordinated communications strategy that shows the most authentic side of your brand. Get in touch today if you’d like to speak to a digital communications specialist about how to make this happen.