How to Handle Your Brand Message During a Crisis

I’ve seen a lot of emails come across my inbox about how different companies are handling their business and serving customers during the Covid-19 outbreak. Some of these emails read like they were all copied and pasted from one source. Yet, there are those that stand out. Some of the better emails have made me laugh, while others have reassured me. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the same emails. The question is, does your company need to send an email to your customers and if so, what should it say.

In light of what’s going on, I think it’s a good idea to talk about this in the context of how to handle your brand message during a crisis. 

In the old days, social media consultants and marketing managers would devise “crisis plans” that would help companies handle their brand messaging when something bad happened. I’ve created several of these in my time. Usually, they consist of checklists full of “things to remember to do” instructions on things to say and who should handle the messaging (including replies to comments or questions). In some ways I think those are still helpful, but this crisis is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. A checklist just isn’t going to cut it.

So, the first question… Should you say something? Yes, I think you should, and not just because everyone else is doing it. You should do it for two reasons. 

Reason #1: Tell Your Customers What to Expect

The first is so your customers will know what to expect from you. A great example of this is the email I got from my bank saying that they would be open and serving customers through drive thru and online services. The last thing we need to worry about right now is money. Since banks are considered an essential business, it’s only fitting that they would be open in some way. I was reassured when they sent that email. 

Possibly the most helpful email I got, though, was from the library. A library is not an essential business. The bookworm part of me, just staunchly disagreed with that statement, but it’s true. We don’t need the library to live. So, their email said that they would be closed until further notice, but the most impressive part was the list of links for free online resources they provide. I didn’t even know that half of these existed. It’s not all ebooks, either. There are free courses, free language learning sites, and even an app where you can stream free movies with your library card. They didn’t have to give me that giant list of free resources. They could have stopped with the announcement that they weren’t going to be open. Instead, they decided to provide value to a customer base who probably also didn’t know about half the free online options.

So, send your email and let your customers know what to expect during this unstable time. Maybe your email will need to say that you are shutting down for a while, and that’s okay. As businesses we all have to deal with this in different ways. The important thing is to let your customers know how you are dealing with it. They’ll understand.

Reason #2: You Can Help

The second reason to send an email is because, as a business, we are in a position where we can reach many people at the push of a button. That gives us an opportunity to help

Most of our companies can’t do anything valuable to help stop the spread of the virus, except for maybe not traveling between physical locations. Most of our companies also can’t help treat those who have already contacted it.

But we can help our customers feel safer. We can help them feel more reassured that we will get through this. I know as individuals, we won’t all get through this. But as a people, as a community, and as citizens of this world, we will come out the other side. We don’t yet know what that other side will look like, but we will get there. There is hope, and that’s the message we should be spreading right now.

How to Handle Your Brand Message

If you’re still worried about what to say and how to say it, you can do worse than these three guidelines below.

Be Authentic 

You know who you are as a company, so don’t let your message sound like someone else. You have a voice and a circumstance that is unique to your brand. Acknowledge it and use it.

Speak from the Heart

There has never been a better time to take off the corporate mask, and show the personality behind your brand. We are all in this together, as people. Let your customers see that you are human, too. 

Be Helpful

It’s okay to still sell, but just know that not everyone is going to be able to buy your product or services. The more important thing is to be helpful. What are some things that you already offer that are for free? If you don’t offer anything for free, does someone else have a free resource that you could pass along?

Hopefully, that helps you answer the question of what you should do during this unsure time.

Cassie Witt