Brightside Marketing
Brightside Marketing

Communicating During a Crisis

In times of crisis and change, businesses need to think clearly about how and what they need to communicate.

Regular, transparent, and honest communication are the keys to success in effectively maintaining your brand reputation during times of uncertainty. Contrary to our instinctual nature to ‘protect’ our key stakeholders from the truths of the current reality, communications must be prepared with the key target group in mind and with an emphasis on their key needs, fears, and challenges.

One of the most important we’ve learned in business (and life) is the importance of building trust.  Trust is earned and one of the key ingredients to trust building is honesty – however uncomfortable it may be. Below are 4 key steps businesses can take to achieve this:

1. Identify your key stakeholders

It is easy to think about the ‘expected’ groups i.e. customers, employees, shareholders, and suppliers. It is important, however, that you look broader as there are many other groups you need to be considering. For example, bankers, landlords, insurance companies, advisors, and CSI initiatives your company may be involved in. Prioritise these groups based on their importance to the future of your organization as well as potential groups who could impact your business negatively if they are ignored or not handled effectively. It is preferable to make your managers and employees your key priority, as they will play an integral role in communicating key messages to other stakeholder groups.

2. For each stakeholder group, spend some time thinking about their key needs, fears, and challenges

For example for employees, what is the current state of the company; what are the potential impacts of the crisis on the organization; what does it mean for them in the short, medium, and long terms; what should they be thinking about/planning in the future? Instinctively we tend to share the information available to us at the time but do not shy away from difficult questions/concerns – even if you don’t know the answers. It is far more comforting for someone to know you are grappling and working with difficult and uncomfortable issues – this builds trust.

3. Develop key messaging

Based on step 2, for each group, identify key messages that need to be incorporated into the communication you are putting together. It may just be three or four points, but you must identify them. Also, think about the ‘action’ points that need to accompany your communication. E.g. Are there any additional services that are on offer; is there a helpline; is there any action you require of your stakeholder group or anything you would like to stress you are working on? When developing communications, remember your tone is vital. Empathy, concern, authenticity (remaining true to your values), and urgency are key while speaking to the stakeholder’s key needs, fears, and challenges.

4. Do it all again

Regular communication at a time of crisis or change is vital. No matter how small the update is during a crisis or time of extreme change, people want to be communicated to regularly.

Remember, brand reputation is built over time. Long after you have gotten through the crisis, your key stakeholders will remember how you responded. Be the outcomes positive or negative, it is the communication activities you put in place at this time that are critical for enhancing your brand equity.