“Brand Messaging And Marketing During A Crisis” Article originally published on Forbes

A lot of businesses have questions right now. Leaders need to pivot their messaging. But how should a business leader adjust their company’s message during a crisis? What’s the “right” message to send when there is no playbook for this?

Be authentic and empathetic to your audience.

To be authentic and empathetic to your audience, you first have to know who your audience is. As a business leader, each person needs to look at their audience and customize their message based on how their audiences want to hear from them.

Even if you have put a lot of work into finding your current clients, you need to stop and think about your comprehensive audience. Here’s a hint: You have more than one audience. Consider your:

• Clients

• Referral partners

• Team members/staff

• Online audience (social media/email list/subscribers)

If you have one message that you are sending out to every one of these audiences, you risk your message being perceived negatively because it could come across as insensitive. Customizing your messaging and understanding who your audiences are will help you adjust your message in a way that can be best perceived by them. Even if you don’t have all of the answers, being authentic with your audience gives them the confidence that you are resolving to figure it out together. 

Shift your message to providing overwhelming value, rather than your fall-back sales routine.

The rules of business are different right now. Three months ago, something you may have charged a premium price for is now no longer in demand. So what does your client/customer need right now? 

You don’t want to overwhelm people with all the things you do, especially right now. Don’t keep pushing your services or products! Focus on what’s important to others right now and how you can position your messaging, services and products to meet their needs. Ask yourself:

• Why are you offering each of your services and products? Do your customers still need it right now?

• Will the price point of your services or the length of a contract be a deterrent in our current economy?

• Is there something that people in your industry, or even your direct competitors, are doing that might be a better fit? How can you model something similar?

Just like you, many of your clients and customers may be struggling during this crisis. Consumers are looking for integrity and businesses that are going to help them solve the problems that are important to them right now — even if your business isn’t the one that would normally provide it for them.

You don’t have to reinvent your entire company, but you may need to pivot or expand to meet the market. Here are some examples of how you can do so:

• Webinar management and promotion: Help them grow their audience.

• Introductory level packages: Simplified versions of your normal services

• Adjusted terms or contract conditions: Lessen the commitment

• Training courses: Teach them to do what you do

• Consultation: Coach people on a specific need or strategy

• Bundle packages: Save money by buying adjacent products/services

Have a short, clearly defined message and communicate it consistently. 

You want your message to be clear and simple. Creating a message from scratch in the moment may lead to mixed messages. Try picking three things that you and your company will focus on — your core focus points. When communicating with any audience on any medium, put your message through the filter of your core focus points. Here are some focuses to consider: 

• How are we ensuring the health and safety of our team and clients?

• How are we adjusting services and products to match the current market needs?

• How can we show we are managing our business to survive, ensuring our clients we will be there for them in the long run? 

• How are we serving the community during this time? 

• How are we getting through this together and supporting each other and other businesses? 

Another key to communicating with your audience is consistency, but be careful that you are cognizant of repetitious reporting. That can come across as insensitive and your message will be ignored. Try to find a baseline of what you can commit to when communicating with your separate audiences.

Our agency is recommending no less than once a week communicating to your clients and team with an update, check-in or value add. Here are a couple of great systems and guidelines to help you stay in touch with your audience:

• Schedule content in advance: For staying consistent on social media, create social media posts in advance. You can use a social media scheduling tool or copy and paste them to your channels on the day of. 

• Speak to clients directly: Most experts agree that the majority of communication is nonverbal. Body language, tone of voice and expression are all things that can’t translate through an email or social post. Consider recording a quick check-in video to send to clients or partners and ask how they are doing.

The Takeaway

Right now, there are no guarantees for business survival. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of a crisis. But, if we can be proactive with our marketing and strategic with our messaging, we have a much better chance of getting through this. Emerging from a crisis is easier with the help and partnership of others, and a strong brand message with consistent marketing will go a long way to keep your audience supporting you.