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What to Do About Marketing During a Crisis

Who would have thought that we would all be working remotely for most of 2020? Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

For large organizations, moving quickly is not recommended, and in some instances, it’s nearly impossible to do. For this reason, it is important to have a Crisis Communications Plan in place before a crisis strikes. When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, many businesses were scrambling to understand what was going on and how they could continue to operate. We’ll use the COVID-19 pandemic as a case study for marketing during a crisis.

Businesses evolve to meet the demands of their markets. To do this, they have come to rely on mountains of data that inform each decision about how to evolve. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, there was no data. There was no signal or indication of what to do next.

Companies with a strong digital presence held the advantage over their competition, while others struggled to evolve and implement a digital strategy quickly. Low-to-no contact policies exacerbated these struggles.

What we have learned about marketing during a crisis over the years and what COVID-19 reinforced:

  • Be Prepared in Advance
  • Frequent Communication
  • Strong Online Presence

 

Public Relations – Crisis Communications

In larger organizations, having protocols and policies in place helps determine the right set of actions that serve the business’s best interests. During catastrophic events like hurricanes and pandemics, a Crisis Communications Manual serves this purpose.

In March of 2020, businesses with a Crisis Communications Manual had enough direction to move quickly and adapt to the immediate shifts (or, in some cases, a complete loss) in the marketplace. Businesses that already operated digitally with a remote workforce, or ones that had operations set up to allow employees to do so even on occasion, were more poised to continue business as usual. Those without remote work policies, equipment, and plans had to scramble to get their employees back to work.

Communication has become one of the most essential tools for any business. It has a profound effect on professional relationships, as well as cash flow. During the COVID-19 pandemic, video conferencing became the mainstay of communication, and allowed many businesses to continue to operate almost as if nothing had ever happened. Businesses that stubbornly held on to outdated operations suffered.

Policies and Protocols: Creating a PR Manual

Public Relations is more than press releases and finding media exposure. There are a variety of key ideas that are included in a solid PR plan. One of the most important is crisis communications.

Typically, a Crisis Communications Manual will have all of the protocols for a business to follow during a variety of events. These are important because they indicate what needs to be done and by whom. This is a safety net for when panic sets in and people are more apt to make wrong decisions and make matters worse. These events can be anything from natural disasters like hurricanes to internal corporate scandal. Being prepared for the worst allows a business to pivot smoothly when an event strikes. Predicting these events is something a creative team does well.

Do you have a crisis communications manual in place? It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out document. Some are only ten pages long and detailed enough to cover every aspect of their business. We can help you build one.

Online Presence

During the pandemic, businesses probably learned quickly that having no digital presence is a fatal error. Any business that kept putting off updating their websites or growing their social media platform felt the pain of losing visibility. Many businesses scrambled to go digital or update outdated websites when the pandemic struck.

Over the years, many of our blog posts have discussed why you should update your website and build a social media presence. We gave dozens of reasons and the benefits of doing it, but still, we have seen many businesses continue to operate with outdated websites. Now, it’s all abundantly clear when one can no longer meet directly with someone or be discovered at a trade show – an updated, modern website is essential.

An important part of a modern website that is behind the scenes is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO has been more than just a buzzword for many years. It’s now a marketing necessity. A solid SEO plan will increase your online visibility with Google, sometimes more than you can imagine.

The best opportunity to succeed with SEO is to make some small tweaks to your website. Simple updates to your website can improve the user experience and generate valuable, qualified sales leads. If you don’t know what SEO means or how it works, we can help. We can also help you audit your site to find opportunities for growth.

How We Can Overcome a Crisis

First, be persistent. Don’t give up, no matter how daunting the challenges that lie ahead. Second, it’s time to dip into your resources. This could be a number of things from cash to your network. Finally, communicate with all of your stakeholders. Be open and honest with them to find solutions and hidden opportunities.

You can look for a template for a Crisis Communications Manual, but you won’t find one. The reason is that each business is unique. We have the experience and proven know-how to create a Crisis Communications Manual that is tailored to fit your exact needs.

Whether it’s to improve navigation or the overall user experience, Pinstripe can create videos, blogs, and optimize images for your website. We can also take professional photos and assist you in setting up a studio for recording vlogs. Contact us today to find out how we can help you bring your digital marketing up to speed.

Crisis Communication Planning: Why It’s Important

by Nikki Devereux, Director of Account Management

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have the perfect illustration of why it’s a good idea to have a crisis communication plan in place for your company—large or small. You probably have many stakeholders who are wondering what will happen as this crisis unfolds, from customers to vendors to employees. It’s best to be prepared with a strategy of how, when and what to communicate before a crisis occurs.

If you haven’t put a crisis communication plan in place, now is a good time to consider what steps are needed during times like this. Below is a list of things to consider.

  • What type of crisis is it? Here in Florida, many companies are prepared for hurricane emergencies, especially after Hurricane Irma gave us all a scare a couple years ago. But this COVID-19 pandemic shows that we need to prepare for other types of crises, as well.
  • Who are the audiences? Identify the audiences that you need to communicate with. You will need to create messages to communicate with each audience, and perhaps a general message for your website and social media.
  • When to communicate? You’ll need to decide a timeline for your communications ahead of time and keep a calendar of these to stay organized.
  • Where to communicate? Outline your communication channels to provide different messaging for different channels. Examples are social media, website, and email, but you may have several others to consider depending on your organization.
  • Who is on the team? Deciding who is part of the communication team well before a crisis occurs will help you mobilize to respond more quickly and effectively.
  • What is the message? Developing some sample messaging ahead of time will help you get started more quickly, as opposed to developing all messaging at the onset of the crisis.

You’ll notice that many companies have begun emailing you about the pandemic, placing COVID-19 messaging on their websites, and communicating through various channels about how this crisis is affecting their business and ability to serve you. These are good examples of crisis communication. Some companies are more organized than others and this can be very evident in the communications you receive. Make sure to prepare ahead of time!

Pinstripe Marketing has developed comprehensive crisis communication plans for companies large and small. Contact us if you need assistance with creating your crisis communication plan.