Every industry, businesses of all sizes, and teams all around the world are experiencing unprecedented uncertainty. In recent years, businesses have been investing more time and resource in planning crisis communications. Until recently, many haven’t had to put these plans into action.
But today, as thousands of us log in to work from home, effectively planning our communications in times of crisis has never been more important.
What are crisis communications?
A crisis communication plan helps you organize ways of effectively communicating with audiences during uncertain or emergency situations.
They help ensure that employees, customers, partners, and anyone else involved in your business are fully equipped with the information they need. Crisis communications help protect employees, assets, customers, and ensure business continuity.
Why are they important?
The main goal of all crisis communication is to enable smooth communications, no matter the channel or location of the recipient. They’re designed to equip readers with important information.
As an ecommerce brand, this may include informing customers of altered delivery schedules. For a B2B software company, you may be looking to inform clients about unplanned maintenance on your platform. Non-profits may need to rally volunteers to help in an emergency.
And all companies need to be communicating clearly and effectively with their employees. Dedicated accounts for your internal communications allow you to send emails and surveys to check-in with employee wellbeing from one place. SMS keeps everyone informed about the latest situations and empowers businesses to update employees as soon as situations change.
No matter your goal, brands need to be sharing knowledge quickly and effectively. By ensuring your technologies, systems, and processes are ready, you’ll be able to keep on top of communications as situations change rapidly.
Who should you be talking to?
Companies of all sizes need to respond quickly and confidently in times of uncertainty. You need to have a clear idea of who you need to be talking to. Typically, this should include all employees and stakeholders, but consider breaking your communications into audience groups.
- Investors/board/executive members
How to plan your crisis communications effectively?
Approaches will differ depending on your business. No two plans will be the same, but there are a couple of best practices that will make your communications more effective.
When you can, communicate with your audiences in real-time. In times of crisis, an immediate response is not always possible. But, as long as they’re timely and effective, they’ll still do their job.
If your company uses a marketing automation platform, ensure all your lists and segments are up-to-date and clean. This will make getting the right message to the right person quicker and easier.
And, if you have a team managing your live chat channel, ensure their working hours are clearly publicized. For out-of-office hours, make sure you have updated chatbots or automated messages to reassure enquirers.
All the information you have and want to get to your audiences needs to be easily accessible anywhere.
Employees and customers may be unable to access desktops or printers, so mobile accessibility is a must. This is especially important for those individuals in your audience whose mobility might be restricted during emergencies. Utilizing your automation platform’s landing pages is great for business updates, especially for times when teams are working remotely and may not have access to intranets and website CMSs. Landing pages are easy to create and accessible on most devices.
Not every recipient needs to receive the same message.
Ensuring your messages are relevant to the reader will be significantly simpler using your omnichannel marketing automation platform. The usefulness of personalization tools, that are usually used to drive sales, shouldn’t be underestimated.
Basic first name personalization will have a big impact during uncertain times. Anything that will make your readers feel like individuals are going to go down well. Using dynamic content in your crisis communications will also have a positive impact, and even more so on your communications team. If you have core message variations based on team, department, location, or segment, adding a dynamic content block to your messages will save you a great deal of time, and help you get messages to your audience faster.
What else should you be doing?
For a lot of companies, emergency situations will impact your business as usual. As a result, it’s essential you make sure that you check or alter many of your BAU practices.
Check your automation
Any automation programs you have running in the background need to be checked when a crisis communication plan comes into play. You need to be checking everything, from content to CTAs. Make sure nothing included could come across as insensitive and that you’re providing readers with the most up-to-date information you have. Where necessary pause your automation programs.
If you know you’re going to be unable to fulfill marketing offers, make sure these aren’t going out to your customers. During times of crisis, you don’t want to add more stress for your team or your shoppers.
For offers that have already gone out that can no longer be fulfilled, extend your redemption period to keep customers engaged with your brand.
In the unfortunate event, you need to cancel an event make sure this is communicated as quickly as possible. Whether you’re postponing or canceling altogether, guests will need to know as soon as your decision is made. Make sure you’re using the right channels to do this. With a reader rate of 98%, you can’t go wrong with an SMS. This will have the added benefit of easing their concerns with information about refunds or rescheduling.
Stock level updates
Don’t add to customer disappointment by having to refund an order because you’ve run out of stock. If you’re a B2B company, create new automations for your customers to notify them when it’s time to restock or repeat purchases.
Memberships and subscriptions
If you’re a brand that offers memberships or subscriptions, such as gyms or food delivery that are going to be affected by changes in daily behaviors, communicate clearly and quickly what will be happening to these services. Gestures of goodwill, like pausing or suspending their plans, are a great idea and contribute significantly to positive customer sentiment.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to crisis communications. The most important tip we can give is to be open and honest. It will mean so much more to your employees and customers. And that positive sentiment will see you through the tough times.