20 April 2020
Operating during Coronavirus is as new for your customers as it is for all of us. Every opportunity counts, while your consumers are changing their behavior simultaneously online and in real life. As these shifts continue, our reaction time as marketers is even shorter. This presents opportunities for your brand—as well as your competitor’s—to capture their attention through your digital content. And your customers want to hear from you. In fact, Kantar found that only eight percent of consumers think companies should stop advertising during the outbreak. Be present This is not the time to go dark—either in your social media channels or your website content. Consumer behavior has changed considerably on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Traffic is up, but visits are more kinetic. It’s as if our collective attention spans have gotten even shorter as we process a flood of new information. Maintaining a brand presence between customer touchpoints is always important and relevant and useful information will keep your brand in the consciousness of both consumers and search engines. Be helpful That relevant information should include ways your organization can help in these unusual times. Have you changed operating hours or procedures to serve your customers and protect them and your staff? Tell us about it. Are you pausing operations but scheduling service for the future? Let us know how your biggest fans can get to the head of the line. Do you have a product or service that is particularly useful during quarantine? By all means, tell us more! Be clear Sharing details about doing business with your brand is really only helpful if it’s relevant to the customer. You’re changing your hours to sanitize your vehicles? Lay out how that affects the customer. Having inventory issues? Communicate exactly what is in-stock, what’s not and when you expect that to change. Phone lines jammed? Share that immediately through every other channel at your disposal. People understand these are unusual times for you, too, and they’re willing to be patient when they have a clear understanding. Be consistent Don’t fall into the trap of communicating with your customers once and calling it a day. Update at least as frequently as you did during normal times. Remember, a good part of your content will be pushed down people’s news feeds by the latest news, along with graduation pictures from 1997. Stay active to stay relevant. Be a connector A major theme in much of the consumer-generated content right now is staying connected. People are feeling isolated and are eager for human contact. If possible, demonstrate how your brand brings people together by acknowledging your online community and inviting them to join with your company—and each other—in some community effort. Salute local amateur athletes who lost their spring sports season. Repost the community theater’s rehearsal video. Recognize local students or civic organizations for community service. Be grateful Remember to thank your customers—and your casual followers—for remaining with your brand through this situation. Thank them for their efforts and their sacrifice to stay healthy and help to shorten the duration. Most important, thank your employees—the line staff, technicians, phone center representatives, all of them—who one way or another are facing new challenges right now. Also remember your vendors. A little appreciation, even when you’re the one writing the checks—can go a long way to keeping your supply chain running smoothly now and when we get back to something approaching normal. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
23 March 2020
Author: Daniel Lally
There’s no communication playbook for the current public health emergency. Nobody alive has ever faced this particular communication challenge, let alone in the context of worldwide, always-on keyboard commentary. But there are some consistent principles. Make it about them It may be a matter of great professional pride that your IT team has managed to scale up access to the VPN and add remote back-up functionality to your EOS on such short notice, but are these details your customers and vendors actually need right now? Do a quick scan of your inbox folder. How many COVID-19 messages have you gotten in the last week? Or, the last 24 hours, even? How many did you read from beginning to end? Just like we learned to ignore irrelevant online ads, we’ve all trained ourselves to skip over the corporate messages that don’t have meaning or value for us, personally. Skip to the part in your communication where you get to “What This Means to You.” Consider opening with that. And, if your compliance people will go along, consider closing with it, too. Be human We’re communicating in tense times about serious issues. It’s even more tempting than usual to rely on corporate-speak. Utilizing one’s multisyllabic vocabulary when your smaller words will do is not just less clear, it’s exhausting. There’s no reason your news release, customer email, vendor letter or social media post should sound like it was written by a committee of insecure law school applicants. You’re talking to people. Be compassionate Speaking of talking to people, many of them are confused and some are downright scared. The changes you’re announcing or the new process your organization is following might mean anything from a reassurance or an inconvenience to a genuine problem for your audience. Remember, this is about them, so take responsibility for that. To whatever extent you can control, be flexible in individual cases, but mostly, admit that this is an issue and that the people behind your brand are trying their best to minimize the disruption to the people in front of you. Stay in your lane You’re a smart person. You know lots of things about lots of things. But unless you actually are an epidemiologist or a public health expert, don’t sound like you think you are one. Reminding customers and visitors that your organization is following social distancing procedures is fine. But if you want to share best practices, preventative measures or treatment protocols with your employees or outside audiences, direct them to actual experts in those fields. It’s fine if you want to hand out the local health department’s flier or share a link to the CDC website, but shoehorning health tips and other technical information about the wider situation just distracts from what you set out to communicate in the first place. It also risks damaging the credibility of your brand. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
30 October 2019
Author: Daniel Lally
As Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg headed to Capitol Hill for his two days of ritual public humiliation over the 737 Max, his company took out full-page ads in several major newspapers. We’ll leave it to others to dissect the executive’s performance and the reaction of his brand, but the situation is a useful reminder that at some point every organization will face an angry, frustrated or just disappointed audience. Obviously, we can’t run around like a bunch of cartoon characters offering a heartfelt apology for every unfortunate circumstance. But when our own action or inaction clearly lead to an unpleasant outcome, an effective apology can help you (a neighbor, a spouse, an anthropomorphized brand) regain trust. Customers in general are open to forgiving a brand that takes responsibility and expresses regret for its own actions or failures—and it certainly beats blaming somebody else on this score. However, it’s only effective when done properly. These are polite norms that we all kinda, sorta know intuitively, but behavioral scientists Steven Martin and Joseph Marks codified them for us in their book Messengers. They state that an effective apology: Must be delivered quickly; Must be expressed sincerely; and Must demonstrate a commitment to change. Most of the public apologies we encounter these days fall down on at least one of these criteria. So, where do these less timely, insincere or noncommittal apologies go wrong? Often, it’s a matter of completeness. For example, the apologies lack any tangible or expressed commitment to change or to prevent the offense from happening again. More often, the person apologizing allows his or her personal pride to get between the expression and the whole point of the exercise. They know they need to apologize, but they don’t want to actually take any blame for anything personally. The result is usually some sort of excuse or qualified apology, which is to say, not an apology at all. I am sorry if my words were misunderstood. I apologize to anyone who may have been offended. I didn’t know you were going in there when I left my shoes in the middle of the room. That sort of thing. Knowing when and how to offer an apology can be the difference between regaining the trust of your customers and the public, or turning disappointment into rage. Or sleeping on the couch, for that matter.