April 1, 2020 | | , , ,

Dos and don’ts for crisis writing

Dos and don’ts for crisis writing

Unless you’re living under a rock or in a bomb shelter wrapped in bubble paper, you’ve likely had to endure not only the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, but also a litany of emails from every company you’ve ever Googled, liked, purchased from, or invested your life savings with.

Everyone wants you to understand that they are “working hard to navigate the crisis” and that “as a valued customer we are on your team through it all.” This is a nice gesture, but it can also be super annoying if not done thoughtfully. While I do appreciate Ed the CEO of Delta personally assuring me (I feel safe because he digitally signs every email “Sincerely, Ed Bastian”) that his fleet is being sanitized, I don’t actually have the time to read the 1,900 word email every 4 days. (PS – I really love Delta. Disclaimer: I own 28 shares in Delta and I’m a third-tier SkyMiles member which doesn’t even get me into the lounge for free anymore—and yet my loyalty runs deep.)

For the most part, every company on the planet (big, small, yours, mine) is likely wondering one thing: How do we retain clients and customers long enough to keep the lights on?

It’s scary. Super scary.

But what’s even scarier is making a bad situation worse by communicating in ways that are irrelevant, self-involved, or opportunistic. In other words, now is not the time to release that luxury shoe product that only the top 9% can afford (which, subsequently, may now be more like the top 2%). It’s also ne’er a good idea to ask people to “take a leap of faith” during a crisis. What you can do is build trust by NOT causing more disruption that has already happened. 

Here are a few dos and don’ts to take to heart, whether you’re in charge of content, PR, marketing, advertising, or employee communications. And when we all come up for air, we can get back to the more “performance-based” stuff. 

Don’t be tone deaf. For example: Hey! Buy our super luxurious hand-made olive oil soap that doesn’t kill any bacteria—OR VIRUSES for that matter—for only $1,499 if you use the promo code “coronavirus.”

Do share educational material in your wheelhouse. Let’s say you’re a finance/investment-related company, you could be educating your customers and partners about how this will economically impact them.

Don’t be remotely bloviating because right now is not the best time to whack people over the head and show them that you know everything about everything even though your industry has NOTHING to do with healthcare and yet you keep sending advice on how to  stay healthy during the worst plague in history since the Spanish flu.

See what I did there?

Do give away free stuff that is providing a relevant service of some sort.  Tip: Give things away that you would normally sell. If you’re a cybersecurity company, this could mean giving material away that helps you work safely at home. 

Don’t be opportunistic. Politicians are generally the most guilty of this little doozy. Summarized formulaically as such: I know you are suffering right now, and Sam knows you’re suffering. How? Because he’s suffered in unimaginable ways too. VOTE FOR SAM!

Do communicate positive messages that reinforce solidarity. Without trying to sell or promote anything, reach out and share stories from the front lines that offer hope, humor, inspiration, and positivity—showing (not telling) that you understand their pain. After all, like it or not, we are all in this TOGETHER.

In the words of many enlightened people before us… “All will be well.”

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