The way we communicate with our audiences has changed overnight. All of a sudden, our cheerful, positive brand messages and stories are considered inappropriate amid a crisis. On the other hand, you don’t want to add to the panic and negativity as a company. Both of these factors have left many marketing experts and brand managers confused and unsure of how to approach this issue.
For these reasons, brand storytelling and company communications are extremely delicate during a crisis. Your storytelling strategy needs to be adaptable and ready to respond to real-time events from one day to the next. Simply put, what you were building before the crisis is now your basis, but what you do now will continue to be the story of your brand.
2020 has definitely been one of the hardest years for positioning and marketing a brand. To successfully navigate brand storytelling during these crisis times, we have prepared some of the most important guidelines for business owners.
- Create a Designated Communications Team
In times of crisis, it’s important to be very clear about roles and assignments. Naturally, your team will be influenced by the panic and anxiety caused by uncertainty and the global crisis, so you need to incorporate stability and structure to neutralize this.
To start with, create a designated team for public relations, marketing and communications that will be responsible for storytelling in crisis. In smaller companies, these employees will have to wear many hats: from regular marketing to crisis communications. If you’re in a larger company, a designated crisis comms team is usually set up. The least ideal case is if you’re a freelancer or a one-person company. In this case, you will have to deal both with the crisis itself and how you communicate it to your users and customers.
- Assess the Impact and Dangers
Before you start communicating anything to your audience and customers, sit down together with your teams and assess how much the crisis could impact your business and reputation. Depending on these answers, you will tailor your approach and determine the level of directness, aggressiveness or subtlety you use during crisis communications.
“It’s impossible to remain in full control during a black swan-type crisis, but analysis and rational approach can provide you with that much-needed sense of certainty. You will have the best overview of the potential dangers for your brand if you communicate across all teams”, says Dorian Martin, a writer at WowGrade.
- Address What’s Going on
In almost all crisis cases, ignoring what’s going on is definitely not recommended. The only cases where no comment is an appropriate comment is severe negative PR and reputational damages to the brand. In cases like the coronavirus crisis, your customers expect you to address what’s going on and explain what your brand is doing during the crisis. This is equally applicable to everyone from small businesses to multinational corporations.
Be upfront and honest about whether anything will change. If you expect difficulties in logistics, don’t promise delivery terms you cannot fulfill. Don’t open yourself up to additional complaints and returns due to poor communication; this will only make the situation worse and more complicated.
- Leverage Data-Driven Storytelling
Data is, like in all other circumstances, a reliable source of information you can use to determine what kind of communication your customers expect and want. According to a 2018 report, 1.7 megabytes of data per second will be created for each person on Earth in 2020. As a brand, you need to learn how to juggle this vast amount of data and use it to your benefit.
Brands prefer to use visual storytelling for a reason. Namely, the average person processes visual input 60,000 times faster than textual input, which means you’ll make an impression quicker, stronger and deeper with a visual.
- Provide Advice, Tips and Help
In crisis periods, people turn to institutions, companies and brands of trust as a reliable source of information. That’s why, during the coronavirus crisis, you had the chance to see advice not only from the World Health Organization but from all brands, regarding everything from disinfection and healthy diet to working from home hacks.
Make sure the advice you’re giving is scientifically backed, and never spread hear-say information or speculations in your official press releases. You can consult with experts on Studicus (a hub of professional writers) or SupremeDissertations (experts in academic writing) to determine what is a reliable source of information.
- Work on Positive PR
Emotions play a huge role in B2B sales. When you focus on spreading cheerful, positive and uplifting messages about your brand, your customers will automatically associate those same feelings to your story and the way you work. In other words, if you want to stay in control over your brand’s narrative, focus on the positive.
Many brands decided to donate to health institutions during the coronavirus crisis. This is, at the same time, a noble action that promotes social responsibility, but also a great brand storytelling asset. If you manage to tell the story about your donations in a not-too-braggy way, you’ll be able to capture the attention and admiration of your customers by being a responsible part of your community.
- Give Over the Mic to Your Customers
In some of the previous chapters, we focused on staying in control over the narrative and the story built around your brand. This implies in-house communications and marketing, careful analysis and even more careful tracking of the customer and public response. Now, what we’re about to suggest doesn’t fall into this frame at all, but it can be extremely effective for brand storytelling during a crisis.
The fact is that consumers tend to trust recommendations from their friends and family, and even other people that they don’t know, over traditional promotional ads. Some companies leverage this fact by relying on their great reviews and recommendations, while some dread testimonials and ratings as their worst nightmare.
There is a very good reason why the testimonials section is very often included in every brand’s main story. It’s a way to build trust and form organic relationships with your customers, not through adverts, but through two-way communication.
Running marketing campaigns and shaping your brand’s story during times of crisis is incredibly complex and delicate. The marketing experts within your team have to form a stable, consistent unit that uses data and analytics to tweak and perfect all the messages that go out to the public. You can even consult a crisis storytelling expert who can help you set a good course when it comes to public relations.
In conclusion, it’s not only possible to continue fostering brand storytelling during crisis times, but it’s a necessity. Before you start, outline a clear plan of your actions and don’t be afraid to adapt to changing circumstances along the way.
About the author: Estelle Liotard is a successful and prolific writer working with some of the best agencies in the world, such as TrustMyPaper and GrabMyEssay. She’s an expert in academic writing and always strives to produce the best essays for her clients and partners. Next to academia, Estelle is also a small business owner and digital marketer.