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How Should You Communicate in Times of Crisis?
Today, more than ever, the slightest wrong communication is scrutinised, analysed and criticised. In this period of health crisis and general confinement, speaking out is essential to keep in touch with your ecosystem (customers, prospects, partners, suppliers, etc.). But beware of communication errors!
Attention, fatal errors.
Confined in our homes, social networks appear to us more than ever as a refuge to learn, communicate and exchange together. But, when we work in marketing or communication, what tone should we adopt? How to communicate in such an unknown and usual situation? What messages to disseminate in these times of health crisis?
Mistake # 1: pretending nothing had happened.
A new product to launch, big news to broadcast? Keep your communication plans as intended and you go straight to disaster. By doing so, the message you are sending is that your brand is not connected to its audience. It does not care about the seriousness of the situation. So even if your brand is not working in a sector on the front line of this health crisis, your brand has a role to play and it must take a stand with its communities. Not by being "for" or "against" something (which would make no sense). But your brand must show that it adapts, that it takes care of the well-being of its employees by remote offices, that it promotes its customers who act to manufacture protective equipment, that it supports the medical staff… In short, you must show that you’re united. Committed. Flexible.
Mistake # 2: Dont overreact.
« When you face a crisis, your communication must be effective, not uncertain. In a period of crisis, your communication must be efficient, not hesitant» , says Florian Silnicki, founder of FrenchCom (French crisis communication agency).
I can hear you from here: "Easier said than done. Especially since no one had seen this COVID-19 health crisis coming." Exactly! This is the principle of a crisis, you never see it coming. Too easy otherwise, we would manage it upstream, we would solve it, and therefore it would not be a crisis. This is why the crisis communication strategy anticipates, prepares and spreads throughout the company. The challenge? Do not improvise on D-Day, react effectively and be prepared for the unexpected.
Mistake # 3: Take advantage of the situation.
The image speaks for itself: "Stay protected! 2 sanitary masks offered for each order!" This is the wrong communication committed by Polette, manufacturer of frames and spectacle lenses. Even as the controversy over the shortage of masks swells and our caregivers do not have enough, here is this communication campaign turning into a mercantile opportunism. And so basically missed.
Communicate with empathy, authenticity, and relevance.
The media coverage about the Coronavirus is unprecedented! We only talk about this. Thus, according to a report from the INA (National Audiovisual Institute), on French news channels from March 16 to 22, 2020, 74.9% of the airtime was devoted to COVID-19. Or in other words: 13 hours 30 minutes per day and per news channel! And more than 250,765 articles have been put online. And this only in France! But we can well imagine as the same in all the countries facing the crisis... So, to avoid any missteps, here are some tips full of common sense.
Do not rush into all-out communication. Think, adopt a guideline that you will follow. Unhealthy hyper-communication never does anything good. Even in a crisis. Or, should I say, especially in a crisis. The urge to get noticed first is usually risky. So communicate sparingly, with empathy, with emotion.
This is the subject of our blog article from last week: "Customer experience & relationship with your prospects and clients during crisis periods”. It is also an opportunity to set up new communication formats: a weekly logbook, webinars, a live chat on social networks, a virtual coffee break between CEO and employees, etc. Be creative, and keep one word in mind: authenticity.
Communicating in times of crisis, a skilled balance.
In the event of a crisis, there is no ideal communication since the objective is not to attract new subscribers or to sell a product. It's all about staying close and listening to your ecosystem. It's a real balancing act where you have to keep the words below in mind:
- Rapid dissemination of relevant information
- No exacerbation of stress
- Step back
- Thoughtful and limited communication: "less is more"
- Entertainment and inspiration after the first phase of trouble