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We’re all painfully aware our generation has never faced a crisis like this before. And in the midst of this crisis, brands have two choices. They can carry on as before but show they care or they can use their strength as communicators to help – both the public and themselves.

This is a time when clear and regular communications are more crucial than ever. How do you go about planning for the unpredictable and reacting to a situation that changes by the hour? How can you best mobilise your team and meet the need for increased production levels?  

It’s a challenge we’ve been tackling for many of our clients, transforming marketing plans in days rather than months. And, despite the chaos, we’ve found an approach that has allowed brands to communicate with their customers rapidly and flexibly about the topics that really matter.

Accepting that everything has changed, at least for the next few weeks and months ahead, you need to create a new set of communication rules; a lens that focuses on what your audience is thinking and feeling so you’re tuned in to what’s important, in the moment. 

Your messaging needs to shift so that it’s aimed at supporting needs rather than creating profit. Sales messages can create widespread contempt – take a look at the below the line comments on LinkedIn and Twitter if you need convincing. Rather than ‘Shop here’ aim for ‘This can help you’.


There are many principles around good comms but we’ve highlighted five, designed to protect brands and help them come out the other side of the crisis in a strong position.

1) Keep it simple: clear, bite-sized content beats long and complicated every time.

2) Listen & learn: in a rapidly unfolding situation use the data around you to understand how customers are acting and feeling. It will inform your responses. 

3) Silence is not golden: stay in regular touch. People (staff and customers) need reassurance and won’t easily forgive a business that stops communicating.

4) Competitors are now friends: working with rival brands for the greater good is appreciated by all audiences. 

5) Don’t be all talk: brands that have a genuine interest to help and support by making changes to their businesses will create a halo effect in how and what they can communicate.

 

One thing that hasn’t changed is the need to make a plan that includes everything from news updates to repurposing relevant content. The plan ensures that everyone – across client teams and their agencies – is facing the same direction and siloed working is put on hold, hopefully for good. 

The tool we’ve developed creates a plan with messaging priorities and content aligned to the real-time customer mindset. It also goes beyond the immediate moment to look at trends and scenarios over the coming months. How will people be feeling after six weeks under lockdown? Plan proactively for what’s likely to happen and what you’re going to be saying. 

You’ll be surprised how far ahead of the game you can get by creating messaging now that can then be refined nearer the time. It can free up resources for dealing with the truly unknowable and take pressure off your team during a stressful time.


 

New situations require new behaviours. Work with your teams to build cadence, base your messages on real-time context and plan well for consistency and efficiency.

Laura Alderson - Strategic Communications Planner

With everyone working from home, you obviously need to think about your processes. 

Everyone has to align to the same deadlines. You’ll require an open channel of communication shared with every party involved. You also need to ensure QA processes are still in place and there is still a level of control over what’s being released to the public. This is no time for one person to go rogue and say something that damages your brand for good.

In our case, the team is working closely with clients and their other agencies to tailor processes that get everyone working in the same direction and making things happen. We have built daily rituals to ease two-way communication and crucial sign-off points. At the same time, we’re keeping it flexible. Things will change and we’ll need to react with speed. Our structure is firm but built to be flexible. 


 

Now is the time that we need to be communicating even more clearly, frequently and with relevance. It’s a huge challenge but you can overcome it by always thinking about your audience and the mood of the nation. 

 

Plan for the next couple of months and start creating your messaging now for likely scenarios. Create a structure that allows for clear, regular comms and integrated working. Don’t sell but support.

 

Yes, this is a crisis that nobody expected. But brands that keep marketing will come out stronger. Plan well to stay in good shape.

If you’d like to know more about what’s been working for our clients over the past few weeks then we’d be very happy to chat.

Get in touch