At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you are selling when your community is dealing with a crisis. How you communicate during this time directly affects how your customers feel about your company and brand
This goes far beyond making minor adjustments to marketing messages. Crisis strategy means creating a plan to accurately and effectively communicate through your customer service team, your media channels, and your overall brand.
While you can't necessarily control the crisis at hand, you can control the way you choose to respond to it. I choose to do so in a way that makes customers feel heard and seen. Here is how you can too:
1. Know your values inside of the crisis.
Your core values define the way you communicate. If you don't know what your core values are, your communication will be inconsistent and convoluted. Instead of saying what you stand for, say what you need to say in order to appear knowledgeable.
Take a look at the Black Lives Matter movement. Companies are communicating in different ways. If a business was already actively pursuing and embodying diversity and inclusion, their message will be starkly different from a company that is just now beginning to step into this mindset.
It is best to know where you stand and communicate from there, as opposed to pretending you are something you aren't. Authenticity can be uncovered. If you don't know where you stand, that is a major cause for concern.
Review, and if needed, reevaluate your values. Ask yourself: What do you want to embody moving forward, and what matters most to you? Lead communication with authenticity and you will lead your community into a brighter future.
2. Take a moment to pause and listen.
Making assumptions stops you from listening and will leave your community feeling misunderstood or trapped. Some of the best ways to communicate clearly are to listen to what others say and open the floor for a dialog as opposed to giving a speech. The simple task of emailing your key customers and asking them, "how are you doing?" and "what do you need?" will go a long way.
When the Covid-19 pandemic began to impact businesses, my coffee company reached out to our customers to take a pulse on what they needed most. We quickly realized they were feeling nervous about running out of coffee beans. Understanding their need to feel safe, we offered a promotion to buy one bag and freeze one bag of beans. While we had full inventory, we ensured as many customers as possible by offering the promotion. On the flip side, we were also able to create a spike in sales.
Use customer feedback to paint a good picture of where they are living and adjust accordingly from there. Clarity in communication is key. Ask straightforward and simple questions, then listen and execute on what you hear are the needs expressed.
3. Take a stand and be bold.
Forget what your audience believes in for a moment and focus on what you stand for. That truth will ultimately present itself, and it's better to be truthful from the start than lose customers down the road. There is nothing bolder than being unapologetically honest in your communication. Instead of standing by and going along with the masses, communicate your truth. Chances are you will stand out from the rest.
Be the business or the brand that gives people truth. Once you can stand firm in what you believe, communicate to your audience from this perspective and presence.
Keep in perspective that any given crisis will be a blip on the grand scheme of your career. It is how you respond to these small moments over time that creates your brand, your message and your truth.