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Ashley Gilgrist

Webinar on-demand: Communication in times of business disruption

On April 2nd, we were lucky to have Gini Dietrich, B2B PR & comms expert and author of SpinSucks, join us for a webinar to talk about communicating in times of crisis and business disruption. Read our summary below or watch the full webinar here.

Right now, uncertainty is our new normal. We don’t know where the end of the tunnel is yet, and things are constantly changing. So what does this mean for PR, marketing and communication teams during this time? Do we just bury our heads in the sand until this is all over? 

Now’s not the time to stay silent. In fact, your brand remains just as important, and effort in downturn can definitely scale in the upturn. So how can you be creative, helpful and interesting with your marketing? 

Perhaps take a moment to ask yourself: “What do our clients like? What do they complain about? What do they wish we offered? What do our competitors do that we don’t do?” – think about how you can add value in alternative products or services, or be more compelling when you come out the other side.

Guiding principles for communicating in the “new normal”

Preparation is key

Your business may communicate one thing and then the next day, things will totally change. While there’s not a lot we can do to control this, “hope” is not a strategy. Make sure to have a plan and be prepared for worst-case scenarios, because things may continue to change. 

What is the context, does it still make sense, and is the creative appropriate?

Take stock of what you plan to communicate and see if it still makes sense given the context right now. Is the campaign, message, email or imagery right? Posting pictures of people in groups or on holiday may not be what people want to see right now. 

Do your best to keep track of the news and what’s happening in your key markets to make sure your messaging and creative shows understanding. Some initiatives may need to be shelved temporarily, which is okay.

Is there anything you can do to support right now?

Consider the products and services you are offering in the market currently. Do they still make sense too? Take some time to figure out what people want and read between the lines. If your offering doesn’t feel quite suitable, perhaps there is an alternative approach that will be more relevant. How can your brand be helpful during this time? 

People won’t always remember what you did during a crisis, but they will remember how you made them feel. Do you want to be seen as a brand who is trying to make a quick buck, or a brand that cares? There’s not a lot that can be done about short-term revenue, but there’s still room to be kind and generous, and when things pick up again it’s likely your brand will be top of mind off the back of this.

The first step is paying attention to your clients. Give them a call, or get account managers to call them. Pay attention to what they’re saying on blogs or social media. Understand how they’re impacted. 

Next, think about what you can offer. Could you provide free worksheets, templates, curated resources, or helpful information? For example, rental clothing brand Rent the Runway sent emails about how to style from the waist-up during video conferencing calls while people are working remotely.

Could you share free advice or consulting in your area of specialty? While it feels counter-intuitive to ‘give your secrets away’, people often get a chance to see the effort and techniques that go into your work, which helps them appreciate the value of it later on.

Maybe you could set up a freemium product, or perhaps do something completely out of the ordinary. There are some auto-manufacturers that have taken to creating medical supplies during this time. Is there another way that you could put your services to use or stand out? 

The ‘what not to dos’

  • Don’t overtly sell – People will understand that you’re trying to generate revenue rather than be helpful. There’s a right way and a wrong way to put yourself forward during this time.
  • Don’t pretend it’s business as usual – Acknowledge what’s happening in your markets. Don’t stay silent or bury your head in the sand. Be human!
  • Be conscientious of what you put online – This comes back to the question of does it still make sense? and is this appropriate?. Be extra careful and really think about how your content will be perceived during this time.
  • Don’t mimic everyone else – Stay true to your brand and your offering, be unique. Try not to just panic-send an email because ‘everyone else is doing it’ – consider how you can really add value first.
  • Don’t be negative or speculate – It’s not a good idea to get political or point fingers. It’s a sensitive time; try your best to practice kindness and generosity instead.
  • Don’t take advantage – Don’t price gouge or present yourself as an opportunist. Keep in mind: people will remember how you made them feel.
  • Don’t ignore requests – This may be a time where people ask to ‘pick your brains’ or request help or support. While it’s not always in your best interest to say yes, try to be more forgiving of this. It’s still important to trust your gut, but don’t flat out say ‘no’ if there is something you could offer.

Remember: Shakespeare wrote Macbeth and King Lear while in quarantine from the plague. Let’s see if we can use this time to innovate while being creative and valuable in our communications.

Gini Dietrich, author of SpinSucks.

Watch the full webinar here.

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Ashley Gilgrist Ashley is a product marketer and content contributor for the Tech Marketers Group. Outside of work, you'll often find her testing out new recipes or hiking the pointy peaks of New Zealand.