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12 totally relevant ways to design your crisis comms without knee-jerking


Don’t sell, don’t copy, don’t pretend to help unless you mean it – marketers have many pitfalls to avoid under the present Covid-19 crisis. But what should you do instead? Here’s our ultimate guide on how to design your materials over the next three months. Add your own grain of salt. 

Crisis communications graphic
Image © The Offices 2020

We’ve spent the past three weeks watching brands’ response to the global coronavirus pandemic, and found ourselves cringing and sympathising in equal doses. 

Cringing because even the first round of crisis comms have been so cheesy, with their familiar formats of ‘we hope you are safe in these unprecedented times’ followed by ‘we’re here for you’ and finally a sales offer. 

And sympathising, because frankly who isn’t scared witless that their entire market is going to fall apart, irreparably. 

There’s so much uncertainty around the climate, businesses can neither carry on with their old messaging as if nothing happened, nor can they plan for the long term. 

A recent article by Moz founder Rand Fishkin, urging businesses to ‘read the room,’ says it best: don’t stop marketing but don’t be tone-deaf either. The best marketing efforts around the world right now involve helping, not selling – giving away 15,000 free medical gowns, delivering food to the needy, offering free financial advice. All without expecting a single sale at the end. 

But let’s say, hypothetically, you’re not a multinational with the capacity to do that. 

So we’ll fast-forward to the medium-term, a world three months down the track. The crisis has started to abate, but life as we know it has changed – as suggested by this infographic on the emerging low-touch economy, by the Board of Innovation. If you’re listening to the chatter all around right now, you’ll have an idea on where everyone’s heads will be: craving meaningful connections, grateful for good health, newly in touch with their communities, and ready to shake off months of inactivity. 

So let’s get your business geared up for that not-too-distant future, and focus on some very plausible creative comms that tap into the following sentiments that people are experiencing. 

  1. Loving everything local – being restricted in our movements, we’re rediscovering local service providers like never before. Many of your customers will stick with their local, after this subsides. What photos, faces and colourful stats can you share about your local connections? 
  2. Craving the tactile – if you sell any kind of sensory experience, just imagine how much your customers are missing them. The smell of fresh-cut flowers; the relief of massage therapy; the joy of an expert cocktail. Can you recreate that for your customers, with short videos, illustrated guides, beauty tips, sighting competitions or subscription deliveries? 
  3. Ready for boot camp – with people devouring more snacks out of boredom, and jocks everywhere locked out of their natural habitat (the gym), the kilos should start piling on soon. Demand has already surged for anything fitness or health-related, from home fitness stations to immunity-boosting vitamins, better walking shoes and apps that encourage competitive workouts. All could use interesting, enlightening marketing materials. And that’s just for the self-motivated. Just imagine how many others are desperately missing your drill-sergeant’s voice, pushing them to go harder, faster, longer…
  4. In need of a laugh – according to Google, comedies and feelgood films are outstripping horror and dramas as audiences turn away from the depressing daily news. Add some visual fun to your marketing. This Geico insurance ad might be five years old, but it’s exactly the kind of sentiment your materials need right now. 
  5. More mindful – without the daily grind of rushing between appointments, many are enjoying the new inward focus. Just look at the rush on items like gardening products, home tutorials, art supplies and pet care. What lists, kits, videos or daily pep talks can you give your customers, to tap into that slower, more self-happy pace, and stretch it out well into 2021? 
  6. A little fearful – to grapple with mental health issues such as depression, insomnia, anxiety and distress, your business can share encouraging graphics that explain in simple terms what customers can do to alleviate their worries. This applies to most businesses, from financial planners to insurance brokers, HR consultants and any entrepreneur. 
  7. Feeling a tad spiritual – as we collectively puzzle why this pandemic is happening, and how no one saw it coming (apart from Bill Gates and Nostradamus), it’s easy to predict that spirituality will experience a resurgence. Can you send your customers some pictures, poems, prayers or giving-back experiences, to put earth’s troubles into context? 
  8. Looking for love – we all tut-tutted disapprovingly about those naughty Bondi backpackers who refused to stop partying. But it’s tough being young, single and hot for love. Even if your business isn’t a dating app, you can make romance relevant to customers: whether you’re selling apartments to first-home buyers, cooking kits to singletons, guitar lessons to the heartbroken, and more besides.
  9. Grateful for the planet – as we’re forced to avoid crowds and much of the built environment, nature is our source of healing. No matter what business you’re in, you can probably afford to talk for oh, maybe the next millennia or so, about your care efforts for the planet.  
  10. Ready for adventure – this is a tough one, given how hard-hit the travel sector is and how many operators may go under permanently. But anyone with wanderlust is dreaming of escape beyond their own boring four walls. Campers will want to know about new gear, trails and gadgets. Jetsetters will be ready to browse new itineraries to far-flung locales. And everyone will be ready to inhale fresh flavours, scents and sounds – even if it has to be the suburb down the road, for just a little longer.   
  11. Bolstered by technology – stable, secure technology has kept us sane these past few weeks, and powered more businesses more effectively than we’d thought possible. But the unprecedented reliance on technology has also released a wave of cyberattacks. Even if your business isn’t in IT, your daily emails, social media graphics, icons, banners and other comms can put customers at ease, by showing what measures you’re taking to create a safe online environment. 
  12. Humbled by medicine – this story ends (deliberately) on a bow to the greatness of modern medicine. We’ve watched in horror as different healthcare regimes have either crumbled or prevailed through the pressure. That means anyone in health care has lots to communicate. No matter the current state of your customers’ hearts, lungs, immune systems or other body parts, their future wellbeing might depend on your health product or service. And don’t we know it.

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