Mark Lethbridge, CEO of Gravity Global talks about how we can overcome these challenging times.
The one certainty about the Covid-19 situation is that there is no definitive response – there is no rule book. But based on experience of helping brands navigate events such as 9/11 and the financial crash of 2008, and the extensive external analysis that relates to communications in periods of crisis, I have some firm opinions to share.
- Now is not the time for brands to lose their voice…
- It’s not the time to push sales messaging either…
- …or simply to tell customers what the business is doing about Covid-19 to mitigate its own commercial disruption.
Rather, this is a time to engage with customers, reinforce the existing relationship with them, and to be proactive in supporting them.
So how should brands pivot their communications with customers in the current crisis?
What should they say, how should they say it, and when should they say it?
Of course, for some the first reaction is to shut down marketing comms, not because this is in the best interest of customers but because it is in the best interest of shareholders and the business needs to be seen to be cutting costs and conserving cash – despite making claims on their website about being customer-centric and having a higher purpose than just being driven by profit.
This is not only disappointing, but evidence shows from past crises that this is a flawed strategy. Brands that maintain a presence during a crisis recover faster.
Forbes.com recently published an article on the subject that you can read here.
The Forbes article is more than an interesting read, it shows there is real data that supports the case that when you stop communicating with your customers, even in extreme circumstances, brands will lose position and will be replaced by others who have maintained communications.
Some brands are continuing with communications, but these are sales orientated BAU programmes. They are either being too slow to react to the change in circumstances, or are mistakenly adopting the attitude that they can just keep calm and carry on, in the hope of maintaining market share and positive brand sentiment.
What is not recognised is the brand damage this can cause as they are seen by audiences as being out of touch or insensitive to the realities faced by some of their customers and communities.
We have all recently seen our mailboxes over-fill with the subject heading ‘Covid-19’ promising it’s business as usual, when we all really know this is far from reality when the world is in crisis.
And all this sincerity being expressed is somewhat empty unless these communications are offering some real value to the reader, even if it’s simply information that may be of use to them.
Listed below are the key principles brands should adopt in a crisis:
- Continue to connect with your customers
- Be open and explain what the brand/business is doing in extremely difficult circumstances to help customers, businesses and the wider community during this challenging time – make the communication valuable
- Do not push sales messages
- Gravity Global has produced a 4Rs framework as a roadmap to help brands build their messaging plans around the key phases of this crisis, not just the immediate challenge, but also planning for the future. You can see it here
- Leaders need to lead, and be seen to be doing so, and in a crisis this is even more essential.