Effective communication is fundamental to any organization’s success. Even more so, in a time of crisis — which includes the coming weeks and months, as business leaders decide if, when, and how to move forward with business operations and employment — communication remains key.
A strategic plan will help you keep your customers.
How Will Your Brand Be Remembered From This Pandemic Era?
How companies treat their employees during the coronavirus period (which as of May 21, 2020, is still ongoing), “is going to define their brand for decades,” according to Mark Cuban. The world renowned billionaire entrepreneur warned companies against sending employees back to work. “If you rushed in and somebody got sick, you were that company. If you didn’t take care of your employees or stakeholders and put them first, you were that company.”
A brand’s relationship with its customers, team members, and prospects is always important, but it has never been more critical than it is today. Your communication in circumstances like these, which magnify the actions that companies take, will have a huge impact on your reputation.
Research has shown that consumers are unforgiving to brands with a poor response to the coronavirus pandemic, with up to 76% and 60 % of consumers discouraging brand use in China and India respectively.
Here are some tips you can use to tilt your brand reputation scale in a more favorable direction.
1. Serve, don’t sell.
In a time of economic downturn, it’s time for us to listen to the customer. We should be calling our best customers, asking them, “Tell me, what do you need right now? Is there something I can do for you that will make using our services during this time easier and somehow better for you?” And then…listen. And offer. Perhaps added support, logistics, a free trial, a personal account manager, an extended return period, payment deferment… you decide. Think, what will make the life of the human on the other end of the phone better right now?
Because now is the time to serve, not to sell.
And you will see. Your brand will be remembered positively, for many years to come. You will come out of this stronger than ever.
How will your brand be remembered?
2. Show that you care
With 70% of consumers wanting reassurance from brands, especially those upon which they rely, 83% of consumers believe that brands can play a role in providing stability, and 75% of consumers expect to be informed on the actions that brands are taking — so be sure to keep your audiences informed. Now is the time for brands to be more accessible, and to engage at a deeper level.
Remember, with social distancing, a lot of interaction is happening digitally. Communicate with facts, brevity, and core brand values. Aim to provide assurance, comfort, and hope by expressing care and perhaps even lifting their spirits.
If in a position to do so, provide tangible help or acts of kindness, to those within your organization or beyond it.
3. Don’t try to capitalize on the misfortune of others
Keep your pricing low. It’s tempting to raise your prices, especially if your product or service is in high demand due to the crisis, however don’t raise your prices. While this may work out well during regular periods, following the nature of supply and demand, during a crisis it will come off as greedy and unscrupulous, which is detrimental to your brand.
And stay in your lane. And by “stay within your lane”, I’m referring to your messaging. Let those who can be most helpful take the stage. If you’re not a medical expert, don’t provide medical advice. If you don’t have anything valuable to share, it’s better to remain in the background until this blows over.
4. Communicate powerfully with each audience so that your messages resonate — your reputation depends on it
Consider that each audience group should receive communication from you differently, as per their concerns at the time. Here are the major ones:
Audience #1: Your Team
Like a chain, your company is only as strong as its weakest link.
In a time of crisis, lack of communication with your team will lead to confusion, worry and frustration among team members.
In this time, your team needs to be informed, reassured and listened to. Show empathy.
The best way to speak so your team will listen:
When communicating with your team members, think: If I were in their shoes, what would I need to hear right now? Such as: Job security, job requirements during this unusual period, and updated information.
I recommend that you do the following with your messaging: Empathize. Show compassion. Build confidence, trust, loyalty, transparency and open channels of communication. Show up for them and they’ll show up for you.
Audience #2: Your Customers
It’s no longer about what you can sell; it’s about what you can do for your customers — now. Your communication with them should be about doing the right thing and demonstrating your company’s true values.
The best way to speak so your customers will listen:
When communicating to your customers, think: If I were in their shoes, what would I need to hear right now? Some examples: Continuity, level of service/availability during this unusual period, and updated information. Many of them have financial concerns, so keep that in mind.
This should be your goal: Build confidence, trust, loyalty, transparency and open channels of communication.
Audience #3: Your Pipeline & Your Prospects
Reshape your brand story with your customer strongly in the center as the hero. Be helpful by guiding them toward what they want.
The best way to speak so your market will listen:
Name the prospect’s five biggest needs or desires that your brand can fulfill. Use the most compelling one or two in your brand story — and with it write your vision and your tagline. Follow that with messaging about how you might be able to solve a pain point or need that the prospect has.
Next, create a general message to the public, which combines the choices you’ve made for your brand’s new vision. Apply the messaging you’ve created to your:
- Notices, Updates
- New Offerings, CTAs
- Funnels, Processes
- Paid Advertising
- Automated Emails
- Social Media
- Press Release
- Website Communication
Decide where you will be changing your messaging and tackle each; one at a time.
“Crisis messaging” is just one example of brand messaging. This, plus the other elements of brand messaging, is critical to your company’s success.
Brand messaging resonance will improve customer satisfaction, strengthen brand reputation, increase employee loyalty, enhance customer loyalty and maintain a memorable and positive business reputation.
The Bottom Line: This is your best bet for customer retention, low churn, and ultimately a positive branding outcome, which will bring more sales and revenue.
In short, to craft the right messages in a time of crisis:
- Take care of your team as best as you can. Like a chain, your company too is only as strong as its weakest link.
- Reach out to your customers — ask how can we help you right now?
○ Determine quick and easy ways using your service or product to make life easier or better for the customer.
- Keep your pipeline warm.
- For branding — Design a strategic direction for how best to position your brand in a time of crisis.
- Create a new messaging strategy built around your personas. These could include:
○ Messaging direction for how to engage with your buyer personas for brand awareness and lead generation in a post-Corona period — in which their values and priorities may have changed
○ A customer retention plan
○ A plan to keep customer satisfaction steady and growing
○ A plan to engage internally with your company for employee satisfaction, vision buy-in, and positive employer branding
Don’t let your brand messaging go to waste. Make sure your messages resonate and that they reach your target audience properly.
If you’d like further support: I work in partnership with Cacao Media, a HubSpot Marketing Agency, to provide brand strategy and messaging services. Let’s talk!
My vision for your business is that your messaging be crystal clear, in touch, and forever memorable, so that your brand truly resonates with all who you come into contact with.
Yonit Tanenbaum, Brand Advisor & Messaging Strategist
Yonit Tanenbaum is a brand storyteller and B2B tech marketer with extensive formal and hands-on strategic marketing, communication, business and leadership experience. Much of Yonit’s current focus is on U.S. and Israeli technology companies, driven by her mission to partner with visionaries and founders in their quest to become market leaders in their industries.