22 Apr How to Connect With Your Audience in Times of Crisis
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
As we write this blog, it’s mid-April and our new collective reality is starting to sink in and feel more familiar. COVID-19 has changed our lives in ways we may never have anticipated. It feels that many of us are fluctuating daily (or hourly, or momentarily) between hope and anxiety, relief and despair. In times when many people are fearing for their livelihoods, it may seem impossible to focus on your organization’s marketing efforts. You might feel that no one is even listening – that you’re shouting into an empty room. You might decide it’s best to retreat and lay low for a while, out of exhaustion or financial hurdles, or for any number of very legitimate, understandable reasons. And yet, from what we have observed, the businesses that tend to succeed in times of crisis are the ones whose leaders accept new facts quickly, stick around, thoughtfully shift their messaging, identify and seize new opportunities, and genuinely care about their community. This may sound like a lot – and it is – but in this post, we’ll walk you through how to do each of these things, one step at a time.
Accept new facts quickly.
There are some realities that are so frightening to imagine, it’s easier to pretend they don’t exist. While it’s important to not overexpose ourselves to an anxiety-inducing endless news cycle, it is important to be informed. In times of crisis, listen carefully to experts and accept new facts readily, through the lens of possibility. Depending on whether the crisis is global, specific to your business, or something in your personal life, those experts may be public health officials, your lawyer, your financial advisor, your doctor, your therapist, your marketing expert, or whomever has the credentials and experience to speak knowledgeably about the topic at hand. The less time we waste worrying about how we wish things were, the more time we have to prepare for what’s coming. During a pandemic, it’s wise to spend a few minutes each day keeping up with a reliable news source and considering how the news may impact your business.
In uncertain times, the worst thing you can do is disappear. Your followers have engaged with you because they feel a connection with your brand and they want to stay informed about what you’re doing. If you’ve built a strong following with your audience, many of them will want to help you. If you’re shifting gears and doing something different, tell your audience! If you’re uncertain about the path forward, be vulnerable and honest. Share your thoughts and ask your followers for their input. Tell them what you’re doing to help the community (more on that below!) and share ways that your followers who have the means can help your business and your employees through difficult times. Regardless of how you’re shifting your business model (or not), radio silence isn’t a great look during a crisis.
Thoughtfully shift your messaging.
Many businesses use “social media planning” tools to manage their content calendars. Typically, this is a smart move that helps you save time while also allowing you to be more intentional about your posting. The catch is that you can’t just “set it and forget it.” You must pay attention to your scheduled posts and be prepared to adapt them if needed. When unexpected major global events happen, your scheduled posts may suddenly come across as clueless or even offensive. The reality is that right now, many people are suffering financially, medically, and emotionally. Take great care with your messaging and use this as an opportunity to examine your brand and its purpose. Does your brand represent a lighthearted break from anxiety? A quippy voice of reason? A raging powerhouse of action and advocacy? If you know your brand personality, now’s the time to put it to use! If you’re not sure, now is a time to look inward as well as outward and clearly define your brand standards. (Related: What’s a Brand Standards Guide and Why Do You Need One?)
Identify and seize new opportunities.
Bell Street Burritos is an excellent example of a local business that identified a need and quickly stepped in to provide a helpful solution. They, and many other restaurants, are now offering “market” products (think toilet paper, eggs, veggies, rice) alongside their regular menu offerings. Bell Street launched its no-contact curbside service on March 13 with an email showing step-by-step screenshots of how to use their new online ordering tool, plus a $5 coupon. In subsequent emails and social posts, they shared info and photos about enhanced sanitizing practices, offered clear ways to support (buy a gift card, purchase swag, order food to-go), and shared a promo code for a free roll of toilet paper for orders of $20+! They also launched family-style “heat and serve” meals. Their emails are frequent enough to keep the restaurant top-of-mind (2-3 times per week) but funny and informative enough to not be irritating. Even in times of physical distancing during a pandemic, demand still exists for many products and services. Think creatively about what your business can offer – and remember, in unprecedented times, it’s okay to do unprecedented things. (Note, we have no affiliation with Bell Street, we just really love their burritos and their creative messaging!)
Genuinely care about your community.
People will remember how your company reacted during COVID-19. Showing support for your community is a great marketing move, but more importantly, it’s something we should all be doing in good times and bad. If you are in a stable financial position with minimal worries about feeding, housing, and caring for yourself and your family, then you are in a position to financially support others in need. (Pro tip: coordinate with your tax advisor to learn more about possible tax advantages of your charitable giving!) We encourage businesses of all sizes to find ways to support your community. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Make a monetary donation to a nonprofit you care about.
- Buy a meal for hospital workers through The Meal Bridge (a beautifully-designed online ordering platform created by a local 16-year-old girl!). This is a great way to support a local restaurant AND provide a meal for our hardworking healthcare teams.
- Donate essential items to nonprofit organizations. Pick your favorite and ask them what they need – they’ll tell you!
- Donate your time or services to those in need.
- Tip a randomly-chosen service industry worker through Atlanta’s Virtual Tip Jar (you can tip directly through Venmo or CashApp – it takes less than 30 seconds!)
- Shift your manufacturing operations to help provide essential items
As always, we appreciate you reading along with us and hope you know that we genuinely care about you, our followers and friends! If you are unsure of how to proceed with your marketing efforts at this time, give us a shout or feel free to schedule a free 30-minute introductory call by clicking here. We’re here to help!
How has your business reacted to COVID-19? Which businesses do you admire for their response during this crisis? Drop us a line at hello@streetlampcreative to let us know – we’d love to hear from you!