5 Critical Communications Lessons Marketers Can Learn from the Coronavirus

No one wants to be the downer who fears the sky will fall at any moment, but recent events have proven that organizations have to be prepared for emergencies at any point. Coronavirus has understandably caught companies across all industries and geographies by surprise, and communications leaders around the world are rushing to respond.

Developing a plan for your critical communications is just as important as creating your ongoing marketing calendar. But what do you do when you have to take unprecedented actions in what seems like a moment’s notice?

Don’t fret! Here are some guidelines for communicating with customers during these unexpected moments:

1. Make sure the customer is #1 

The customers that you are communicating with are likely going through stressful and potentially difficult situations. It’s important to think about what you can provide them to help ease their concerns – whether you’re providing clear hours of when your locations will be open, providing relaxed fees for cancellations or late payments, or even providing a tracking number for a delayed package – the content and tone of the message should be personalized for that customer to provide clear and helpful information. Movable Ink makes this kind of update simple to implement within campaigns that have already been sent, and one of our clients even refers to this type of communication as “Peace of Mind Messaging” because it reassures customers that their concerns are top-of-mind for your business. 

2. Develop a plan for continuous updates 

As a situation develops or changes, brands should strive to continuously share the most recent and accurate messaging. Clearly communicate which sources your customers should refer to for the most up-to-date information.

With Movable Ink, you can even include a dynamic module that can be activated within your campaigns at a moment’s notice. You can choose when the module is displayed or hidden, change messaging after deployment or as the situation progresses. This is a great way to quickly share updates across your entire program or drive customers to a webpage with more details. 

These modules can be implemented in a matter of hours – even if you haven’t fully aligned on how you will use them going forward. All it requires is placing a blank pixel in your email template (usually below the header) and then you’re done. Your team would be able to seamlessly deliver messages in real-time by uploading a relevant image block into the Movable Ink-powered pixel and activating it. You can even incorporate the same pixel into as many templates as desired, so your team is able to update messaging in one place and have that update reflected across your entire program.

3. Audit and automate

After sending your initial response, marketing teams will want to audit recent campaigns for any issues given the recent events. For example, does a recent or upcoming campaign include imagery from the location of a natural disaster? 

Check your marketing calendar for similar issues and challenges and revisit any campaigns that could be problematic. If your team codes and designs campaigns one at a time, you’ll have to make incremental changes. If this process proves to be time-consuming and expensive, consider implementing automation in the near future. If this is not possible, consider putting a message at the top of the associated landing page acknowledging the situation.

With the right tools in place, your team can create campaigns where the content updates at the moment of open by pulling in information directly from your website or other data sources including the CDC API Directory for the most recent health information and State Department website for the latest travel advisories. Content pulled from data sources can even have styling rules applied to them to so it’s cohesive with your brand and email templates. Movable Ink enables marketers to easily pull in real-time information from data sources and substitute imagery in campaigns – even in emails that have already been sent.

4. Think about how your organization and customers can get involved 

In addition to sharing important updates regarding accounts and purchases, marketers can also highlight ways their customers can assist in the event of a natural disaster. Many non-profit organizations need donations during these times, and brands can offer customers easy ways to contribute, like the opportunity to redeem loyalty points for a donation. Brands can also pledge to give a percentage of revenue to a non-profit or share information about where customers can volunteer. For example, some prominent financial services clients have long records of enabling customers to donate their rewards points to related causes following natural disasters, so their customers in unaffected regions can be a part of the recovery efforts in meaningful and easy ways. 

If your organization is a nonprofit or NGO, consider personalizing your calls for support to avoid inadvertently asking for support from those who were impacted and unable to assist – for example by using real-time location targeting to tailor the message appropriately. Many of Movable Ink’s nonprofit clients also pause active campaigns during critical world events so their teams are able to regroup to determine the most appropriate messaging for the situation. This is another great opportunity to leverage the dynamic module above to amend any previously deployed messaging and acknowledge the recent events.

5. Be ready for a variety of situations

Once things have settled down, invest time in developing a framework for future emergencies. Now you’ll have the benefit of foresight, so use it to your advantage. Responses should vary depending on your business and the type of situation you’re facing, but an initial starting point is to develop guidelines for each of the following scenarios:

  • A natural disaster
  • A financial crisis
  • A pandemic 
  • A terrorist attack 
  • A technological or security issue

For each of these scenarios, your marketing and communications teams should be in agreement with leadership about the tactics well in advance–allowing for teams to quickly and efficiently update and deploy communications instead of developing a strategy under a time crunch. As you create your playbooks continue to think about incorporating technologies that facilitate real-time updates so your team can pivot quickly and make sure communication is seamless. You can also lean on your tech vendors to suggest best practices for using their platforms in these instances.

Keep calm and carry on

When critical moments arise, how organizations communicate with customers can impact their future relationships and loyalty. Being prepared with pre-approved playbooks and real-time capabilities can allow you to move quickly, and efficiently communicate with your customers. And as always, be sure to discuss your course of action with your legal team.

About the author

Elle Kross

Prior to joining Movable Ink, Elle Kross worked in ECM marketing, B2B marketing, and communication strategy. She joins Movable Ink from Citi, where she led the overhaul of the Credit Card businesses servicing communications. Most recently, Elle ran a team focusing on Citi’s ongoing initiative to drive digital as SVP of Drive-to-Paperless Strategy.