In the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, businesses are facing the heat due to quarantine restrictions, travel bans, event cancellations, and so on. We have compiled a list of seven tips to help you prepare a crisis marketing strategy for 2020.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has negatively impacted the world. There’s been a lot of uncertainty and misinformation surrounding the outbreak, which is reflected in public behavior with necessities like toilet paper going out of stock. Bloomreach fetched online sales revenue data for the week of February 23-29, 2020, consisting of 250+ retailers across the globe and reported the following figures for common stockpile items:
- Masks: Revenue sales increased 590% from the week prior
- Hand sanitizers: Revenue sales increased 420% from the week prior
- Clorox/Lysol wipes: Revenue sales increased 184% from the week prior
- Canned food: Revenue sales increased 183% from the week prior
- Disinfectants: Revenue sales increased 178% from the week prior
- Bottled/packaged water: Revenue sales increased 78% from the week prior
- Hand soap: Revenue sales increased 33% from the week prior
- Toilet paper & paper towels: Revenue sales increased 26% from the week prior
Brands have also been facing the heat as the virus continues to spread. Industries such as airlines, hospitality, events, manufacturing, etc. are facing adverse repercussions to the extent that they have to either reduce or halt their operations. Major conferences and events such as Mobile World Congress 2020 (MWC 2020), Facebook F8 developers’ conference, Google I/O, and SXSW, among many others, have been called off at the moment.
Talking about the cancellation of events of such massive scales, Eran Ben-Shushan (co-founder and CEO of Bizzabo) commented, “Globally, the Coronavirus is having an effect on travel, which directly impacts live events. Events in Asia, of course, are the most affected but it’s troubling to see the impact that this is having on events worldwide. The canceling of live events will hurt the travel and hospitality industry, and harm local businesses. We could see the impact linger well into the year.”
Amid all these events, there’s a lot of unrest and confusion among professionals, internal and external stakeholders, vendors, and customers. You need to have a robust crisis marketing strategy in such trying times.
7 Tips to Create an Effective Communication and Marketing Strategy in a Crisis
To help you do that, let’s look at seven pointers to help you tweak your marketing and communication strategy during a crisis.
1. Assemble Your Crisis Management Team
While it’s impossible to anticipate when a crisis will hit your business, you can ensure to take the right measures so that you can swiftly manage it when it occurs. That means you need to have a crisis management team in place that will be responsible for the communication that goes out in public. The team should ideally consist of a few executive members and in-house PR or marketing people. It helps to work with a PR agency in case the in-house personnel doesn’t have this kind of experience.
You should also have in-house spokespersons in case you have to interact with media or publications. Also, conducting training sessions for spokespersons ensures that they can appropriately answer any queries that might be asked.
2. Protect Your People
During the early outbreak, it’s difficult to communicate the correct information because new data and events might make the present practices obsolete. Also, the scare might create room for misinformation. Therefore, it’s mandatory to protect your employees. This can be done in the following ways:
- Make commute optional, if possible. Many tech companies have adopted the route of remote working. To conduct meetings, they largely rely on communication apps like Slack or Skype and Zoom for video conferencing.
- If you are a brand where you have to interact with consumers such as retail or hospitality, reduce the daily working hours. For instance, many luxury malls in China reduced their operating hours after the Coronavirus started to spread.
- Create a wiki page where employees can find essential information regarding the crisis, updated work policies during the crisis, and so on. It’s highly likely that since conflicting information and rumors would be doing the rounds during such periods, an official wiki becomes a trusted resource for employees to get the information they need.
3. Evaluate Various Possibilities and Create Communication Plans
As an organization, you also need to communicate with your stakeholders, such as investors, suppliers, and vendors.
Assess and evaluate various possibilities that may happen due to the crisis (COVID-19 in the present scenario), and how they may impact the organization and its stakeholders. Develop holding statements or response modules for every possible situation so that you can communicate with your stakeholders on-time.
Holding statements should cover the crisis/scenario and the steps your brand is taking to tackle/manage the situation. It should be empathetic, action-oriented, and should steer away from speculations and unverified updates.
4. Pick the Right Communication Channels
You need to choose the right communication channels to deliver information. Similar to an internal wiki, you can dedicate a webpage on your website to post updates regarding the crisis and how you plan to manage it. Let your stakeholders know if someone from your organization is infected with COVID-19 and what precautions you’re taking to prevent it from spreading.
The crisis management team should connect with media houses and publications to address any potential rumors. Along with your official website, emphasize on social media and email newsletters to consistently communicate information. Up your social listening game and proactively respond and reach out to customers to reply to their queries, complaints, and seek feedback. Ask them what they need and want, be open to online shopping and home deliveries, now more than ever.
5. Develop Marketing Contingency Plans
It’s not enough to simply have a well-defined communication policy. In times of a crisis, the market is volatile, consumer behavior is unexpected, and the business, in general, will face sudden fluctuations. Therefore, evaluate the current market scenario and predict short and long-term market behavior and plan your marketing activities accordingly. For example, Puma has taken a serious hit in China due to COVID-19 and had to close more than 50% of its stores, but they are working under the assumption that the situation will normalize in the short term, and the company will be able to reach its annual revenue goals.
Simultaneously, you may also need to identify and work with other vendors and suppliers to balance your supply chain. This would also mean the reallocation of certain budgets to other essential marketing activities in the short run.
6. Find Alternatives to Deliver on Your Promises
The primary industries that are adversely impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak are events, retail, hospitality, and SMBs.
To prevent the spread of the virus, many event organizers have decided to either cancel or reschedule their events. Another alternative to this is to make it a virtual event. There are a plethora of applications available that can help you run the event digitally. You can optimize this by introducing online discussion tools before and after the event to enable the participants to continue the dialogue, for example, by informing and engaging users on Twitter or LinkedIn. Retailers can even double up on e-commerce efforts, but be mindful when communicating about it.
Marketing leaders must be in tune with the issues their business and industry face. The key to managing through a crisis is being nimble and prepared. Take, for example, the rolling list of major conferences canceled due to the evolving COVID-19 situation, from the Adobe Summit to SXSW. Savvy marketers and would-be exhibitors aren’t sitting back – they are proactively looking for ways to salvage the investments they’ve made in these conferences, like shifting their events or meetings to digital, video-based formats. This requires the right infrastructure to host, manage and share live, and archived video content.
~ Helen Aboagye, CMO of Imagen, said exclusively to MarTech Advisor
7. Prevent the Spread of Misinformation
There’s naturally fear among people when a crisis strikes, which paves the way for misinformation. In the early stages of the crisis, news, many times, may not be most reliable due to the lack of facts available. Therefore, organizations should evaluate their news sources and news itself before communicating with customers and making decisions.
A great example of this is how Google is cracking down on unreliable sources. Google has been working to curb phishing attempts, conspiracy theories, malware, and misinformation and removing YouTube videos and ads.
There’s still not enough clarity on COVID-19, and organizations need to be on their toes to ensure that employees, stakeholders, and customers are adequately informed. Even though the intensity of the crisis may lessen in the future, organizations should revisit how they addressed the crisis management challenge and improve and update the strategy to remain prepared.
What measures and strategies have you taken to communicate with your stakeholders and customers? Let us know.