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We're Finally Open, But What Now? The New Crisis Communications & COVID-19

Updated: May 22, 2020

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Many businesses, big and small, have done an excellent job communicating with customers and clients during COVID-19. Whether bolstering them with uplifting messages or encouraging charitable contributions, businesses have answered the call to support their communities. And they’ve attempted to educate their potential customers what they are doing to protect them.

But people are tiring of these messages. And businesses are starting to reopen. What do we do now? What do we say? How do we balance showing customers that we care about their health while focusing on the health of our business?

Here are a few tips and things for you to consider.

1. Reassess and reassess.

What did you learn during this crisis? For example, many restaurants remained open but altered their menu and service to offer curbside and delivery options which they did not have before. Others who closed their doors temporarily are now reopening under new guidelines and restrictions. Those who used the downtime wisely to reassess their menus, dining areas, branding, and communications will be better able to adapt to coming changes. For those who have been frozen in time, it’s not too late to reassess. Things will not be back to the way they were for some time (if ever). Even if and when restrictions lift, what will consumers want? Do you know how you can adapt? Do you have an up-to-date strategic plan? If not, now may be the time to formulate one. Regardless, you should communicate to your customers what you are doing now and how that differs from what you may have done in the past. We fail when we don’t meet customers' expectations. Your communications should help educate your customer on what they should expect, which is necessarily different than what they experienced before.

2. Take advantage of new opportunities.

Part of forming a strategic plan is identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. President John F. Kennedy noted that the Chinese language uses two brush strokes to write the word “crisis.” One brush stroke stands for danger, the other for opportunity. In a crisis, we must be aware of the danger but recognize the opportunity. Has this crisis created opportunities in your market? How can you take advantage of them? What new customers will this provide? How will your old customers be affected? Don’t give up on your loyal customers because you are reaching for the stars with a whole new lot. Find a way to satisfy both. Once you have it all figured out, communicate your new offerings to your customers, new and old alike.

3. Don’t assume they will come running back.

Though certain industries may see a surge in business as a result of reopening, thinking there will be plenty of business for the taking is a huge mistake. Regardless of what consumers should want to do, we don’t know how they will react in the short or long term. Those who effectively communicated with their customers during COVID-19 seized an opportunity to strengthen their brand. Hopefully, that boosted their brand loyalty, and those customers will be back when given the opportunity. Those who didn’t will have to work to win their customers back. For both, focusing on brand loyalty is critical to maintaining your customer base until they feel comfortable returning. For example, now may be a good time for a brand facelift or to expand your communication channels. Maintaining a presence in the mind of your customers will help ensure that they come back.

4. Focus on your customers AND on your business.

As the world continues to slowly return to a new normal, businesses will have to navigate how that new normal will affect their operations, marketing, and communications. The demands of constantly adjusting your operations can be taxing. But we cannot forget our customer. An aggressive attempt to return to business as usual may be welcomed by some but considered tone deaf by others. We can’t get so focused on our business that we fail to see things from our customers’ perspectives. In communications, this means not forgetting, discounting, or dismissing what we’ve been through (and continue to go through) while shifting the focus back to our products and services. This will be tricky and must be navigated with care.

Whether it’s creating or updating a strategic plan, giving your brand a facelift with an updated logo, enhancing your online presence with a new website, or communicating with your customers via social media and direct email marketing, we are here to help. If you are struggling with what to do (and say) now, contact us today.


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