Paying your employees, generating new revenue, and successfully navigating a crisis? While you may not believe it, these are all standard practices when running a business – even handling a crisis. Whether you’re dealing with something minor like a weather-related business closure, or something more significant, such as the current COVID-19 outbreak, your marketing team will have to find ways to mitigate it.
Naturally, you may find yourself stressed out when piecing together a crisis management plan, but don’t worry. Here is some advice on five ways your marketing team can respond to and during a crisis.
#1 Planning Ahead
You may feel like your organization is invincible to the world when you’re first starting, but that shouldn’t stop you from thinking ahead. In fact, getting ahead of a crisis by documenting a communication and management plan in advance can save your team time – and headaches. Instead of scurrying to figure out how to respond to the public when things go awry, you’ll be prepared to react calmly.
To get your plan together, start by forming a crisis team with members from different departments, alerting your key stakeholders to your updates. Then, record your plan of action and try to include items like:
- Your initial response when a problem first emerges
- Who your designated spokesperson is
- When, what, and how frequently to communicate with your internal and external networks (i.e., your employees, prospects, and customers should all be in the loop)
- The communication mediums you’ll use (i.e., email, SMS, blogging) and the tone and POV
- Who will work on ongoing responses if your crisis should change
- What can be done to lighten internal and external damage (i.e., reducing employee hours to save money, or offering a discount to keep customers engaged)
- What your business will do should the situation get worse
- How and if you’ll respond to users on social media or similar sites
- Methods of gathering customer feedback and how to implement it
Another critical element to consider when forming your crisis communication plan is what marketing material you’ll need to pause and how soon. For example, if you’re an airline offering a summer discount on tickets, but all air-travel has been halted due to a hurricane, you’ll want to pause any previously scheduled social media or email campaigns. In the past, companies have dealt with backlash for not stopping messaging like this, making them appear insensitive.
#2 Keeping Everyone on the Same Page
In times of vulnerability, clear, consistent messaging can help bring people together. If you have a crisis communication plan, be sure your entire company has easy access to it so they can be aware of the language they should be utilizing. Your prospects or customers don’t want to hear one thing from someone in your organization and something completely different from someone else.
If you don’t have a communication plan in place, at the minimum, your leadership should send a company-wide newsletter to alert everyone on how they should be communicating with your contacts. If it helps, try including some canned responses your sales and marketing team can use.
#3 Opening the Lines of Communication
Everyone, whether it’s your employees or customers, wants to know what’s going on with their favorite companies during a crisis. After your team is aligned on messaging, be sure to communicate early and often. Being empathic in all stages of an uncertain situation can help your network feel at ease. Regularly updating them on your business’s progress can also alleviate the fear of the unknown, which makes you appear more authoritative.
Though it is essential to remember while you should be understanding in your communication, you shouldn’t over-promise anything. Be honest, but responsible for how people can get in touch with you. While you shouldn’t allow your marketing and sales team to lose sleep by being available 24/7, you should consider quicker forms of communication, like SMS or email. Most importantly, try your best to stay present, without negatively affecting your own team’s workload.
#4 Adjusting to the Situation
A crisis is challenging. But to keep your business alive, you’ll have to shift your focus away from the “bad” and explore new opportunities. For example, when companies across the country first started working from home in response to COVID-19, Lynton offered a 30-minute consultation on remote work best practices.
Other well-known organizations, like Disney and Postmates, found avenues to adjust to the globe’s current crisis as well. When Broadway shut down, Disney brought show tunes to people’s homes with their at-home Sing-Along. Similarly, Postmates helped local businesses who had to shut their doors by offering free delivery codes. While no one could anticipate how COVID-19 would impact their company, many of their marketing departments explored ways to ensure they could still provide their products and services.
#5 Taking a Breathe
Relaxing during a crisis may seem counterintuitive, but it could help in more ways than one. For starters, your entire team will have a lot on their plate, and they deserve to feel as at ease as your customers. Additionally, crisis developments can change on a whim, with new information being available almost every minute, so you need time to soak in updates.
If you act too quickly, you may end up providing inaccurate updates – which you could regret! Crisis management is a series of actions you take to lessen the blow of whatever you’re facing. That’s why it’s wise to take a breather and gather your thoughts before making critical marketing or business decisions.
Bonus – Get Help!
For some companies, crisis communication may seem as simple as generating new leads. Others may be entirely out of their comfort zone. If you need help from an expert – or want to brainstorm your ideas – reach out. We’re happy to go over ways your marketing team can respond to COVID-19, or how you can develop a crisis communication plan for future usage.