New challenges face professional communicators in the wake of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic. What’s needed is transparency and clear information about the virus, as well as assurance that we can, and will, band together and prevail as this crisis ripples through society.
As marketers, this crisis offers us lessons in the most helpful and effective ways to communicate to our various audiences. Here are six we’re focusing on at IMPRINT:
1. COVID-19 is fundamentally a humanitarian issue. Yes, it is disruptive and inconvenient for everyone, even those who remain symptom-free. But before addressing any financial or work-related issues, let’s sympathize with those who’ve been stricken with the illness — especially those whose lives and livelihoods have been affected.
2. Help people stay healthy! Collaborate with your internal partners, particularly HR, to help reinforce key messaging about hygiene, hand-washing and other recommended ways to keep the virus from spreading. Marketing can also assist in communicating organizational or business contingency updates on telecommuting, travel or meeting cancellations as they arise.
3. Be transparent. In times of crisis, people are hungry for information — and frustrated when information is released in piecemeal fashion. To combat this, be as transparent as possible with all the information you have. Provide regular updates. You don’t need to have all the answers, but making a good-faith effort to share information will build your audience’s trust.
4. Offer your customers support and reassurance, not products. The markets are volatile, it’s true, but seasoned financial marketers have been through this kind of market mania before. Ensure that all your customers know you’re available for them and that you’re monitoring the situation on their behalf. An environment like this may also be an opportunity to reinforce your brand’s consistent messages, depending on what they are. For many financial services firms, this is an important time to remind folks about investing for the long-term and maintaining an appropriately diversified portfolio.
5. Align with your service and sales teams. They need your partnership now. Marketing can take a leadership role in developing consistent crisis messaging and other communications that function as key references for your organization during the immediate crisis. You could also consider providing access to trusted resources about the disease.
6. Review your public-facing communications. Scan the work currently available on your owned, paid and other properties. Make sure the messaging is appropriate for the current climate. Update or remove anything that may be perceived as tone-deaf or insensitive.
Though the weeks and months ahead are clouded with uncertainty, these six guidelines will make for more effective crisis communications for your organization.