How to Navigate Your Company's Communication Strategy During a Global Crisis
In light of Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine, here are some points to keep in mind.
First of all, I wish I did not have a reason for writing this article, guiding you on how to revisit your communication strategy during times of global disaster or crisis. As a Russian entrepreneur who hired an entire team of powerful Ukrainian women, the war that's unfolding hits too close to home.
But it's my fundamental belief that we as entrepreneurs have the power to evoke change. Gone are the days when businesses stayed away from world issues, like climate change, equality and war. Since complex world problems like this are often loaded with opposing views, it might be difficult to choose the right course for your communication strategy.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when reviewing your strategy on social media and other channels.
The nature of a global crisis, like a natural disaster, military conflict or pandemic, calls upon us to act as compassionate human beings before we determine our position as brands and companies. Even in the face of politically loaded issues riddled with conflicting views, you can't go wrong by acknowledging the "human side" of the situation. Express condolences to victims and empathy to families dealing with stress and hardship. "I feel you" is a human-to-human message that might not help solve the problem, but often it's just what's needed to warm someone's heart.
Choose carefully how deep you want to go with the message. If you or your company does not share identity, nationality or close history with those affected by the crisis, stop at condolences and leave the space for others closer to the issue to share their perspective.
Pause the regular promotions
Your audience might be going through a whole range of emotions in response to the crisis. You want to avoid coming across as insensitive or ignorant to what's going on. Yes, life goes on, and there is almost always something happening in the world, but you usually know when "front-page news" is more than just media sensationalism and is actually affecting the lives of real people.
Pushing a new product or discounted services while your audience has the safety of loved ones on their mind can be seen as insensitive. So after sharing your empathy with those involved, don't forget to hit "pause" on scheduled posts and promotions.
Your proximity to the issue will dictate how long until you can restart regular communication. Personally, as a leader of my agency, I find myself in a strange limbo. While my Ukrainian team and myself are highly affected by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, most of our customers in the U.S. and UK are reading front-page news about the crisis, but aren't experiencing it on a level that hits so close to home.
Silence isn't a strategy
Some leaders might choose silence out of fear of not knowing what to say, being judged or speaking too early when not enough facts have been shared. Fear of being canceled for saying a wrong thing does not make it easier. However, choosing your lane is essential in times of crisis. It reassures your audience and customers of company values. It's essential to boost employees' morale and shows that your business is deeply tapped into what's happening in the world.
So what do you share after you've shared your empathy and paused regular promotions? There are a couple of options that you can apply to your industry and specific situation.
If you as a business leader don't share the personal identity of those affected, a strong position on an issue might provoke strong reactions. It's a good idea to uplift the voices of those people want to hear from right now. Do you employ someone who might be seeing information from inside? Do you have a friend or close contact who might offer a good perspective? Remember, attention is the currency of the 21st century, and your social-media channel is a powerful tool in your control. You don't need to flip your business's communications upside down in favor of constant reporting, but dedicating a post or two uplifting the voices of those directly affected goes a long way.
Additionally, think about how your expertise relates and can be useful. I'll just throw out some examples. PR and marketing is my expertise, so in response to current events, I've decided to write this article. A friend who is a trauma coach is sharing tips on supporting your loved ones who are in the middle of the action. Tax and immigration specialists are providing resources for refugees to settle their legal status. Think about specific groups involved and the issues they face to provide valuable content for those who need it right now.
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