Marketing During a Crisis: Who You Are + Who You Want To Be

Bringing value to our clients through real, authentic storytelling is at the core of everything we execute at R\West. Thus far in 2020, we’ve experienced a worldwide pandemic and one of the largest periods of civil unrest in the United States, led by the Black Lives Matter movement, questions on politics and governmental systems and actions – and, we’re only halfway through the year. Navigating the customer and brand journey can be difficult. However, by being authentic, taking pause to listen, focusing on the consumer and staying nimble, brands are able to make calculated decisions on how to implement their crisis communication strategies and marketing tactics.

Be Authentic
Ensuring you’re authentic to the brand – not to your own emotional opinions – is imperative. If you haven’t already, now is the critical time to self-evaluate. Who are you as a brand? What do you stand for? What have you stood for in the past? Is what you want to say, true to the brand?

In addition to the internal audit, to be truly authentic, you must have a deep understanding of the following questions:

  • How is your brand being viewed in the current crisis?
  • Do you belong in the current conversation? If so, why? If not, why?
  • Are you able to hold up any promises or grandiose brand statements?
  • Do any past campaigns, statements, or actions contradict your current stance?
  • What is your intent/goal?
  • What emotion is your brand acting from? Empathy/fear/joy?
  • What are you willing to change if your brand isn’t where it should be?

R\Insight: Social listening tools and an advanced PR team who has a background in crisis communications can be useful tools to help you gain a clear and current understanding of your brand’s perception during a crisis. These tools are also extremely helpful to engage with prior to a time of crisis so your brand is prepared and working from a space of proactive strategy instead of reactive. If you haven’t activated these yet, now is the time to do so.

Take a Moment and Listen
During a crisis, there is always a knee-jerk reaction to respond immediately. However, taking a moment to pause, listen and understand the current climate, within your industry and outside of it, will help you formulate a strategic and sound plan. Remember, each crisis is different and so is every response plan – no one-size-fits-all plans here.

R\Insight: Take a step back before you move forward. Ensuring you are making decisions based upon facts and not just emotions will set you up for success.

Focus on the Consumer
At R\West, we pride ourselves on knowing our clients’ businesses like our own and that means we know how important the bottom line is. However, during a time of crisis, sales should not be the number one priority. Creating an honest and authentic cadence with your consumer will build brand trust that will last far after the crisis is over. Here are a few tips:

  • Evaluate your content strategy – ask the question: is the content entertaining or helpful, honest and human? If not, skip it.
  • Monitor your social channels – what are your consumers talking about? How are they reacting to your content?
  • Reframe your goals and understand metrics may be skewed – sales are not the goal during times like these; reworking goals and KPIs will help you measure success in a different way.

R\Insight: Through audience insights, R\West can help you craft authentic messaging and content that will resonate with your consumer.

Look (and listen) to Your Employees
One key part of the internal audit is talking and listening to your employees. They often see the organization in a completely different (and sometimes more honest) way than the c-suite or leadership teams. There are many ways in which you can gather information from your employees:

  • Anonymous surveys
  • Town halls
  • Small group meetings
  • 1:1 conversations

After you gather information, remember to follow up with clear action plans and progress updates.

R\Insight: This part can be difficult and sometimes, you may hear things that you either disagree with personally or don’t understand due to differing backgrounds and experiences. Even if this takes place, remember that your employees are the key to your success as a business. Stay calm, listen intently, take the time to understand where they are coming from, and then action on items to ensure everyone feels heard, safe, and accepted.

Stay Nimble
A large part of navigating a crisis is being nimble when it comes to your marketing strategy. As we’ve seen with COVID and the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, things can change day to day, hour to hour and even minute by minute. Staying nimble will help ensure the brand’s responses are timely and relevant to the current climate.

R\Insight: Staying nimble also means having a kill-switch to your content strategy. Being quick to respond by turning off any irrelevant or tone-deaf communication and marketing tactics to the current landscape will save your brand from potential backlash.

Crafting authentic marketing tactics during a crisis is complex. In addition to these tips, make sure to consult your community managers and PR team to thoroughly understand your audiences, industry and trends to help you navigate. If your brand is in need of assistance with brand, social, or crisis communication strategy, reach out via our contact page.

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