Times of crisis can bring out the best – and worst – in people. Acts of kindness and empathy, moments of insight and growth – or self-centred, thoughtless behaviour.
The same goes for brands. Your communication during COVID-19 could help you reach anew audience and strengthen relationships with your existing customers – or it could offend and alienate people, damaging your brand. No business wants to be known for making a thoughtless joke or treating customers badly during a pandemic.
Effective crisis communication doesn’t mean abandoning your brand identity – far from it.It’s about focusing on your customers, finding ways to help, and showing empathy and optimism – all in your authentic voice.
Here’s how to get it right.
Striking the right note on social media
In the age of coronavirus, social media is more important than ever. People are stuck inside, working from home, craving connection, and checking the news frequently – it all adds up to more time on social media.
Even if your business isn’t able to trade thanks to lockdown restrictions, staying connected to your customers means you’ll be top of mind when life gets back to normal. Get it right and people will come back to your brand when you’re able to reopen – get it wrong and you may not be forgiven.
Continuing with your standard messaging isn’t an option – promoting your autumn sale or launching your latest product without acknowledging the pandemic will make you look oblivious at best, heartless at worst. You need to tailor your posts to the times and switch focus from you to your customers. Self-centred content doesn’t go over well at the best of times – and definitely won’t fly at the moment.
Reach out, help out
If you can’t sell your product or service right now, find ways to help instead. Help doesn’t have to be financial or practical to be worthwhile, but it should reflect the services people come to you for. You could offer distractions or entertainment, healthy lockdown recipes, financial advice, exercise routines – it all depends on your business expertise.
KFC New Zealand’s current social campaign is a great example. KFC know that customers come to them for fun and fried chicken. So, during the lockdown they’ve shared funny exercise videos with the Colonel to help customers “move those wicked wings”, and rewarded followers who’ve made ‘KFC’ at home with gift vouchers. Making people smile right now is valuable, and their light-hearted, authentic approach is doing just that. In fact, it’s shot KFC up ten points on our Social Scoreboard.
If you’re able to, you can also offer discounts or giveaways for essential workers or other needy groups, donate a portion of profits, or think about partnering with a charity.
As you communicate on your social channels, pay attention to the messages you’re receiving as well. Feedback, lack of response, complaints or praise, frequent requests for certain services – knowing what your customers are thinking will help you refine future messaging.
Don’t lose your voice
Although you’ll need to change the content of your messaging during COVID-19, you don’t need to change your brand personality. In fact, you shouldn’t. A sudden change of tone could seem insincere, just when you need your customers to trust you.
If you’re funny and irreverent, you can make jokes – just stick to relatable everyday stuff, not the crisis itself. If you’re caring, be caring without being cheesy or disingenuous. If you’re bold and opinionated, don’t be afraid to share your thoughts – but be prepared for criticism if you get controversial.
Finding your balance with Zavy
If you think balancing generosity, sensitivity, and customer focus – all without losing your brand identity – sounds pretty complicated, we don’t blame you. It’s difficult to be objective about your messaging at the best of times – let alone during a global crisis.
That’s where we come in. Zavy has just launched a COVID-19 Conversation Monitor, designed to analyse online discussion about the crisis. By monitoring millions of articles, social media posts, and comments, it offers unprecedented insight into public perception and opinion, helping you create relevant, on-brand content that doesn’t miss the mark.
Even better, the starter version of the COVID-19 Conversation Monitor is free, so you get invaluable insight without a big investment.
David Bowes is the CEO of Zavy.