These are tough times indeed for pretty much every business. The Government’s announcement this week that some non-essential people can return to work and you can now socialise with a chosen friend, albeit at a safe 2M distance, are small steps towards normality. However, it’s going to take a long time before things get anywhere near normal for all of us.
This is not a permanent situation and its important not to lose sight of this. This is temporary. During this period it is absolutely vital that as a business you keep communicating. You need to retain people’s trust and maintain your hard-earned reputation. Do not let that go.
One thing I’m often asked now is how to communicate during this crisis and my advice is that you do it with as much empathy as you can.
People are sensitive right now and they don’t want the hard sell or think that you’re making a big profit at this time. There is a very interesting study by global communications firm Edelman which surveyed 12,000 people around the world. They asked how they wanted brands to communicate with them during this pandemic. The results were very interesting. Here are some highlights:
Do consumers want to hear from brands during a crisis?
Answer: Yes, they do but in a comforting and reassuring way. They want to know what brands are doing to respond to the pandemic. Consumers consider brands as trusted partners and look to them for information about the crisis and how it is affecting their companies, employees, and the products and services they provide.
What does that mean?
Try to avoid communications that cause anxiety and concern about the crisis without offering solutions and hope. Keep your consumers fully informed about how to continue to gain access to their products and services during the crisis.
What do consumers expect from brands during a crisis?
Consumers expect quite a lot. 90 percent of consumers stated that brands should be willing to suffer substantial financial losses to ensure the well-being and financial security of others. 71 percent of those surveyed said that brands and companies that placed their profits before people during the crisis would lose their trust forever.
What does that mean?
It’s the businesses which behave with honesty and integrity which stand the best chance. Those that fail to empathise and support their employees and customers will be exposed and could lose that trust forever. Look at recent examples of how this went badly wrong – Victoria Beckham furloughing her staff and Richard Branson asking for government help with Virgin Atlantic. Two extremely wealthy people asking for tax payers’ money did not go down too well with the general public.
What’s crucial now and during the coming months is to ensure your communications are continuous and adaptable. Change the tone, change the messaging empathise with your audience and show what you’re doing to help, whether it’s other businesses, consumers or your people. If you fail to do that you risk damaging your reputation.
How your brand can help during a crisis
Offer free or lower-priced products to help people meet the challenges the crisis presents, particularly those most in need, such as healthcare workers or those forced into unemployment due to the changing economic environment. For example many branches of Domino’s are providing free Pizza to local NHS workers.
Shift factories over from making consumer goods to products needed to fight the crisis. Example Scottish brewer BrewDog has started using its distillery to make hand sanitiser amid shortages in the UK. Bristol’s Psychopomp Microdistillery and 58 Gin in London are also working on similar products.
Bring people together to help bridge the physical distance imposed by social distancing by facilitating community, offering empathy, and providing social support. Example: SnapChat curated mental health resources into a “Here for You” campaign, demonstrating its caring for its community of teenagers and young adults.
Businesses which behave with honesty and integrity during this crisis stand the best chance getting through this. Your communication strategy throughout is critical.