Updated: Jan 31
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused a profound disruption in every aspect of our lives. Many people are now made redundant from their jobs as businesses close down, at least on a temporary basis. Some of them may not reopen. Others will emerge stronger and with increased customer loyalty. What exactly will make the difference between the two possibilities? One key area is communication.
Brand Communications: Stepping into the Unknown
Another major disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis is to client communications. There are no more emails with spring sales. New collections have stopped popping up on Instagram and Facebook timelines. Everything businesses have carefully planned ahead for months for their digital marketing campaigns is now irrelevant.
Some brands have stopped communicating altogether. However, this is not the way to go. Radio silence means one thing for the customers: that the brand is stepping back from all the commitments they made over the year. It means that they are not really ready to live up to their mission statements. It means that all the emails and social media ads where they promote a culture that puts the customer firs are not true.
Fortunately, most businesses are not taking this route. Instead, they are boldly walking into unknown territory and adapting their client communication strategy. Below we will synthesize the most important ways in which client communications has evolved in the last couple of months. We will also add a few helpful tips and advice to help your brand develop its own communication strategy along these guidelines.
1. Sharing Actionable Ways in Which the Business Protects the Customers
The US Chamber of Commerce shares some of the best communication strategies of American companies during the COVID crisis. Among them, the strategy adopted by public transportation giant Amtrak. The railway operator informs its clients of their efforts to clean and sanitize train carriages in order to make them safe for commuters.
This is also the strategy adopted by various other public transportation companies across the globe. Even though lockdown laws keep most people at home, some of them still need to travel to work or for emergency situations. This is why transporters must definitely continue communicating with their customers using all the channels available – TV, internet, printed press, etc.
2. Enhanced and Timely Customer Support
For airlines, hotels and vacation resorts, the COVID crisis means a lot of uncertainty in terms of reopening dates and the situation of tickets/packages purchased in advance. Customers are constantly sending emails and social media messages asking whether they can cancel or reschedule their trips.
And the most effective communicators are those companies that are proactive in sharing as much information as they can, especially on Twitter, the most popular alternative customer service channel. At the same time, these companies continue to keep their full customer service staff to give accurate and prompt replies to inquiries sent by private messages, website chat or email.
3. Supporting the Authorities’ Efforts to Maintain Lockdown Rules
Major retail brands have already adopted the #stayathome hashtag which they incorporate in TV and digital commercials. This message usually accompanies special offers and discounts for online shopping. Or they are simply motivational messages that attempt to keep up the people’s spirits and reinforce the brand values.
4. Becoming a Source of Reliable Information
Fake news travels even faster than accurate information on the internet. After weeks of isolation at home, people are more prone than ever to believe conspiracy theories and to find an ultimate guilty party responsible for their plight. This is the time for brands to put their communication channel in the service of the greater good: sharing accurate information, debunking false news and pointing to official sources of information about the COVID-19 infection.
As crisis management specialist Davia Temin explains in a Forbes article: “If organizations can become the trusted voices in their fields, the go-to resources for solid information, they will be doing a service to themselves, as well as to the commonweal. And my prediction is that they will recover in a far stronger reputational position than those who stay silent.”
5. Toning Down Humor
In the last few years, brands adopted various forms of humor, especially on their social media channels. Memes became highly popular, as well as purely comedian content. Right now, it is not the moment for purposeless humor.
Of course, brands and individuals whose business is comedy will continue to share funny content – but it is significantly toned down and family friendly.
6. Adding Empathy to Planned Initiatives
If we are to survive this crisis, it means that we have to find ways to continue our business and professional endeavors. And many companies do just that – they continue to run promotions and launch new products.
However, there is a significant new tone to these messages. The promotional voice is replaced by sincere empathy and the desire to be helpful and help the customers. One such example is the launch of the new Draper James collection in a personal message from founder Reese Witherspoon, where she asks permission from the followers as well as feedback for the initiative.
7. Supporting and Giving Thanks to First Line Responders
Finally, brands are joining in charitable actions to support hospitals, healthcare staff and other first line responders who are risking their lives in the fight against the Coronavirus. This is the time to give a true meaning to all the CSR initiatives of the past and make a helpful and meaningful contribution to the efforts to save peoples’ lives.