Crisis Comms: A Four-Point Checklist For Effective Brand Communication Through The Coronavirus Outbreak

A quick checklist for brands on how businesses can sustain their brand voice, keep the communication channel open with customers and other stakeholders, while also maintaining their calm

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The coronavirus outbreak has put almost every country in the world on alert impacting businesses and economies. Brands are faced with tough decisions in the wake of the global health crises, forcing individuals to adapt to evolving conditions. In the wake of a global crisis, effective communication strategies are more important than ever, and providing transparent and consistent communication is key.

Timely communication during a crisis goes a long way, and it can spell the difference between a brand's survival -even enhancement- and its irreversible tarnishing. The best example for this would be the 1982 case of Johnson & Johnson's immediate response on the death of seven individuals after consuming their best-selling painkiller, Extra Strength Tylenol. The company established a set of best practices for communicating in a crisis, including speaking early, often, and directly with its consumers, resulting in the company to regain 95% of market share within a few months, and ultimately enhancing the company's reputation.

Related: Reputation Recovery: Why Businesses Should Have A Strategy In Place For When A Crisis Hits

Here's a quick checklist for brands on how businesses can sustain their brand voice, keep the communication channel open with customers and other stakeholders, while also maintaining their calm:

Assess the various risks associated with your business in times of a crisis, and identify functional leaders from across the organization to prioritize the issues that need to be communicated to relevant stakeholders. Businesses should communicate relevant updates from various verticals such as supply chain, human resources, operations, health and safety, and more. Ask yourself these important questions: what processes do you have or need? What emergencies should you plan for? What are your strengths and where is the weakest point? Prioritize issues of urgency, and address the impacts of the circumstances on the industry. At this stage, it is important to identify what value can be provided as an organization to the wider community. During the crisis outbreak, it is now more crucial than ever to keep an eye on updates related to the industry as well as monitor government announcements. Set up keywords monitoring to be aware of the latest news 24/7; this will help your business respond fast to any changes on the market or in your sector.

Review your audiences' needs and assess what value can your brand provide. Segment your audience to communicate the information based on their priorities and needs. Communicate regularly with customers, partners, staff, and be proactive with communities. Live streaming is now an option, and webinars are becoming even more popular. It is important to share facts in real time, and approach all efforts individually based on the current scenario. Armed with industry insights, it is now more important to develop a communication plan that covers what you will do, when, and how. Define key messages for a number of scenarios, and be prepared to handle any incident that may incur. It is important that every brand is able to handle the crisis, and is backed up with reliable facts, media-trained spokespeople, and the right channels for delivery.

Related: A New Era Of Digital And Social Communication Awaits Us In 2020

Produce expert-level content that carries insightful and useful info. Remember, everyone is looking a for a measured, reliable, and authoritative voice, whether in print, video, live or online. This voice will need to provide advice on reason, and bring calm to the storm. Tailor your message to your audiences and utilize digital and social media channels available to you: website, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. Social media is an indispensable source of vital information– we live in a 24/7 news cycle world. Social networks have matured in terms of their functionality, and consumers are jumping on to social media channels to look for directives, making it the easiest way for brands to reach their audience. But do remember, with the amount of fake news circulating on social media, businesses need to deliver content that is credible, backed up by data and facts.

Conduct webinars to educate, share expertise, reconnect with business partners, clients, and vendors. Consider public service sessions, such as streaming live sessions solo or with experts who can legitimately discuss the topic. Such online activities are a safe way to interact with your industry network and consumers while supporting them with valuable advice and keeping that retention level high. To keep your business communication efficient, dive into the diverse world of business apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Screenflow (video conferencing tool for remote communication), Slack, Twist, Google Chats Hangout (messaging apps for the whole team), while project management can be carried out using Trello, Asana, and Monday.

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