Part 1 in a Series
As the public health crisis of 2020 began to unfold, many communicators struggled with how to manage communications in an ever-changing environment. By the time you had something drafted and in the approval pipeline, the recommendations or guidelines changed.
It’s really hard to pivot so quickly. And in case you were wondering, crisis communications is not usually that fluid. Even skilled crisis communicators have been challenged to stay on top of a virus which we seem to know nothing about.
Your social channels might be idle already, so this piece might help you reinforce why to your leadership.
But if you’re struggling with how to remind your audiences that you’re still alive, here are some suggestions and ideas to make that happen.
At this point, you should be evaluating three things:
Should I be posting at all?
Do we have something helpful to add?
Do we need help right now?
Are You Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?
This is a tough question to answer. If you’re a school district, health care system, public information office of a local or state government, then you are no doubt churning out information, resources and links at a more rapid rate than ever before. As well, there are numerous nonprofits who have vital services that need to continue. Recommendation: you should be posting, frequently, humbly and honestly.
But if you’re not, what are you doing? What should you talk about?
If you’re a local-based brand, you can point people to those local resources and reiterate the current “stay at home” guidelines. You can also express a degree of emotion at how much you miss “seeing” your audience, especially if you’re a business that is closed or altered because of the guidelines.
But before you do that, ask yourself another question.
Will your customer cringe if they hear from you now?
It’s really easy to get your messaging wrong right now. Like everyone else, I’ve seen countless businesses that are using the public health scare as a value proposition. This is risky, especially for high ticket consumer goods and services. Many consumers are limiting their spending to draw out their paychecks or manage savings amid uncertain income. Some have already lost their income, so tread carefully on any overt marketing messages.
When Communicating is the Right Thing
Depending on your industry and brand, it might be the right thing to continue communicating with your audiences. Examine what you were doing before and compare that to today’s environment. That comparison should help you decide.
If you can be helpful and offer something of value to your audience while they are staying home, what is that? We’ve already seen numerous museums and zoos doing virtual tours with surprising elements that would certainly keep people entertained. We’ve also seen entertainers of all types doing mini concerts, musical challenges, puzzles and amazing creative content to keep us distracted. Some of those creative challenges have also raised money for causes too.
If you can find a creative way to connect with your audience, you may find a receptive audience. Recommendation: always check your tone before posting. Your audience’s needs and capacity to absorb information is changing so rapidly that what might seem humble and service-oriented one day could be considered tone deaf the next.
Beware of Overscheduling
This is not business as usual, so set aside the usual pace and pulse of your channels. Create mental space and distance around your channels, by looking critically at your schedule and determining what people really want to see right now. Recommendation: use a thick red Sharpie marker (virtual or real!) to edit your schedule, providing your audience with quality content.