Responding to disaster: Brand messaging and communications tips in a crisis
Communication has always and will always be essential to branding.
The right communication strategy is how you share your unique tone of voice with your audience, demonstrate your personality, and deliver valuable information.
When disaster strikes, your brand communications are how you alleviate consumer fears and let customers know that you’re still there for them. Unfortunately, most companies just aren’t used to having to adjust their communication strategies for crises.
That means that when terrifying issues strike, like the COVID-19 pandemic, the general public is overwhelmed with cloying, spammy emails from companies desperately trying to follow the crowd and be part of the trend.
Unfortunately, the truth is that your customer doesn’t want you to send them a coronavirus email just because every other business has. Contrarily, your clients are more likely to respond to you positively if you make sure that your brand message is valuable, engaging, and meaningful.
Now more than ever, it’s crucial to ensure that your brand communication is on point.
Fortunately, we’re here to help.
The different types of brand messaging in a crisis
When something terrible happens that affects an entire community, like a natural disaster, a state of political unrest, or a global pandemic, your customers will expect you to stay in touch. Going silent and waiting for everything to blow over will have a number of results: none of them good.
In the best-case scenario, your customers will be left with questions about how you’re going to continue operating during this crisis event.
That means that your call centres and customer service teams will be inundated with so much correspondence that they’ll struggle to get anything done.
In the worst-case scenario, your customers will think that you’re too ignorant or uncaring to think about their needs during a difficult time, which means that they’ll start buying from your competitors instead.
To avoid both outcomes, most businesses overcompensate with their messaging, sending content to customers on everything from email to social media. That’s why as the coronavirus pandemic started spreading, amount of clutter in our inbox began to increase.
If you take the time to sort through all that mess, you’ll find three different categories of brand messaging:
1. The helpful message
This is the service message, the email or alert sent to let you know if anything’s about to change in your relationship with a company. For instance, here’s the message I received from the Post Office:
It gets straight to the point, letting the customer know exactly what to expect going forward. These are the kind of emails that your audience want to get. It provides them with answers to their most critical questions, without any fluff.
2. The reassurance message
The second kind of brand message that tends to emerge during a crisis is the one that’s there to let you know how much a brand is there for you. This goes beyond just telling you what the company is doing to deal with the immediate crisis.
Instead, it’s about letting you know what the business is doing for you. These emails are designed to make you feel like the brand cares about you and your needs.
For instance, in this Lunya email, the message “We’re all in this together” is very clear.
The company writing the message assumes that they have a reasonable relationship with the customer so that they can use a little humour without worry.
3. The sheep mentality message
The final message is the one that your customer hates.
It’s that email in your inbox that came to you from a brand you haven’t heard from in about 3 years since you tried a new brand of cat food that one time or clicked on a link your friend shared.
These messages are irrelevant, unnecessary, and just fill your customer’s inbox with unnecessary weight. They come across as brands desperately trying to get attention by taking advantage of a difficult situation – and that’s the last thing you want.
Just because you’re dealing with a crisis doesn’t mean you should forget the golden rule of brand messaging. Your communications with customers should always be relevant and valuable to them.
Don’t ignore your email segmentation strategies and start sending emails to the non-responders on your list just because a crisis is happening.
Trust that they’ll find the information they need elsewhere if they need it and place your announcements on your website and social media pages just in case.
Coping with crisis: Brilliant brand communications
From the detailed emergency plans laid out by brands on how they’re going to protect their employees, to the announcements of new products, like the Pub in a boxfrom Signature Brew, every business needs to think about its brand messaging in times of crisis.
The way that you present yourself to your customers at this uncertain time is absolutely essential.
Once you’ve made sure that you’re not sending one of the third types of brand messaging we’ve mentioned above, plan your communication strategy to ensure that it:
Highlights your unique personality (without coming across as tone-deaf).
Addresses any important fears or questions your customers have.
Appears in your customer’s inbox at the right time.
Here are a few examples of great brand messaging that you can learn from.
1. Virgin Media
Virgin has always been an interesting brand to examine from a professional perspective. When it comes to the latest demands for crisis brand communications, the company has shown that it’s willing to go above and beyond to deliver the best service to its customers.
In this email, Virgin Media told their vulnerable clients that they could easily access customer service if they needed by calling a special number.
Before you start sending your brand messaging out to customers, stop, and think about what you can do to make their lives easier during this difficult time. Remember, it’s not just your company that’s being hit by the crisis.
Do you need to offer new forms of delivery to ensure that your customers get the items that they need? Would offering free delivery or discounts help your customers to keep spending with you?
2. Bite Squad
Food delivery service, Bite Squad, decided to fight back against feelings of panic that their customers might have been facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, by taking a different tone of voice.
Instead of talking about all the terrifying things that are happening in the world in their email, the company has simply focused on letting their clients know that they’re there for them.
Phrases like “Stay cozy at your place” are a lot more comforting for panicked consumers than stats about death tolls and infection rates.
At the same time, the Bite Squad team decided to prove that they cared with real action to accompany its brand messaging. That included adding free delivery to their offer for people who wanted to avoid going out.
The empathetic and helpful brand messaging delivered by Bite Squad here helps customers remember what they love most about the brand.
3. Public Goods
Public Goods made an impact with its brand messaging in several ways.
In a COVID-19 focused email, the company delivered an authentic and real image by delivering a personal message from the company’s CEO.
The language in Public Goods’ brand communications weren’t sugar-coated, they got to the heart of what the company’s community was feeling.
Following a quick message about how the business was responding to the Coronavirus issue, the brand included several quotes from members of the team, to let clients know that they were feeling just the same as them.
This is an excellent example of brand messaging that combines useful and informative content, with something that gets to the heart of the human side of the brand.
Mastering brand communications in times of crisis
Ultimately, all brands need to be clear and deliberate in their messaging strategy – whether they’re dealing with a global pandemic or otherwise.
When crisis strikes, your customers want to know what steps you’re taking to protect their wellbeing. They also need evidence that you’re putting their needs first.
The last thing your clients want is pointless or unfocused brand messaging from teams they haven’t heard from for years.
Rather than just jumping on the bandwagon and sending out a series of coronavirus emails because that’s what everyone else is doing right now, you should be thinking about what your audience needs from you.
Our patience as consumers is lower than ever for marketing fluff. However, during dangerous and uncertain times, pointless brand messaging is more toxic than ever.
The good news? If you can get your brand communications right and ensure that you’re sending the right messages to your audience, the result could be phenomenal. In times of disaster, we’re often more critical of the companies that aren’t acting appropriately.
But if we see evidence that a business is being thoughtful and empathetic in their communications, our loyalty for that business increases.
Over the course of human history, we’ve seen countless examples of communities banding together, supporting the brands that they feel are worthy of their attention.
This COVID-19 pandemic will be no different in this regard. Get your brand message right now, and your audience will reward you.