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5 Questions to Ask Before Communicating During a Crisis

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In this ongoing sequence, we’ll be “unboxing” must-have digital advertising campaigns and applications very important to success. In this installment, we’ll take a look at emergencies and crises.

It’s on each marketer’s thoughts in 2020: How do you talk with clients throughout an emergency or disaster?

While it’d be good to have Olivia Pope on speed dial for a model disaster or a designated business continuity team throughout a world pandemic, corporations don’t at all times have that choice.


Growth entrepreneurs such as you would love to have the boldness and expertise to talk throughout an emergency, so clients are blissful, happy, and keep loyal to your model when every little thing goes again to regular.

This is why we’re going to concentrate on emergency and disaster campaigns for this subsequent version of Unboxing Must-Have Marketing Campaigns.

Download the whole information to study the variations between an emergency and a disaster, in addition to how to flip lemons into lemonade with the precise cross-channel messaging.

As an introduction, let’s discuss concerning the one precept you need to take into account when speaking throughout an emergency.

The Power of a Single Overriding Communications Objective (SOCO)

Of course, every emergency or disaster state of affairs presents its personal set of distinctive challenges, however clients will typically:

  • Ask questions
  • Prod for standing updates
  • Voice their disapproval at your actions
  • Take out their feelings in your model (even once you’re not essentially at fault)

So right here’s a framework the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes use of to talk with the general public throughout a well being emergency.

It’s known as a Single Overriding Communications Objective (SOCO).

The CDC particularly makes use of this framework to assist temporary their media spokespeople for press conferences, however we at Iterable have taken the freedom of modifying the 5 questions for sending cross-channel advertising campaigns.

The 5 Questions to Ask Before Communicating During a Crisis

  1. What is your main message?
  2. What would you like your recipients to do?
  3. What lists or segments want to learn about this?
  4. What info or information factors assist the message?
  5. Who ought to “send” or be the spokesperson for this message?

Let’s break them down, one after the other.

1. What is your main message?

Determining your marketing campaign’s main message might be laborious to do basically. But it will get particularly tougher throughout an emergency or disaster that’s quickly altering by the minute.

Maybe it’s notifying your clients that your shops are open for curbside pickup throughout a world pandemic.

Or you want to inform them that delivery instances are delayed as a result of your warehouse location is experiencing a hurricane.

Whatever it’s, it’s essential to do not forget that recipients are skimming, so that you want to prioritize what info is most essential for them to know.

For instance, let’s take a take a look at the email marketing campaign LastPass despatched to customers throughout the 2018 Under Armour data breach.


Password supervisor LastPass notifies clients concerning the Under Armour information breach.

While LastPass does a wonderful job of stating upfront that consumer accounts usually are not affected by this information breach, the first message will get misplaced because the email goes into element about: 

  • How to shield your self from a information breach incident
  • What the which means of a hashed password is
  • Detailing details about the incident

If LastPass had eradicated a number of the extraneous info by linking straight to Under Armour’s web site or added a few line breaks, the first message could be simpler to learn and perceive.

However, this email nonetheless serves as a good instance of why it’s important to talk together with your clients straight about an emergency or a disaster—particularly if clients are in danger.

2. What would you like recipients to do?

Figuring out what you need your recipients to do is in any other case often called deciding what your marketing campaign’s main call-to-action (CTA) needs to be.

B2C emails usually use CTAs like “Buy Now” or “Start Shopping.”

Except these CTAs can come off as insensitive throughout an emergency or a disaster, particularly in the event that they don’t point out the state of affairs at hand and the way it impacts the client.

For occasion, take a take a look at the gross sales email Vanguard despatched to its customers amidst a risky inventory market throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

Vanguard crisis email - above the fold

Vanguard crisis email - below the fold

Financial companies firm Vanguard invitations buyers to strive their Digital Advisor program.

Even although Vanguard is asking for customers to strive its Digital Advisor program, take discover of how the email deal with the risky inventory market developments within the second paragraph:

“Navigating change is a fact of life. We reach milestones, breathe through market ups and downs, and watch seasons come and go. Through it all, our dreams for financial independence in retirement remain.”

Vanguard has been round since 1975, so there’s no query that the corporate has “watched the seasons come and go.” This email serves as a nice instance of how manufacturers can nonetheless promote services and products with empathy throughout an emergency.

3. What lists or segments want to learn about this?

We at Iterable have seen that because the COVID-19 outbreak, our inboxes are crammed to the brim with re-engagement emails. 

This technique usually is smart from a model’s perspective. After all, it’s five to 25 times more expensive to purchase a new buyer than retain an current one. 

But it will possibly additionally come off as annoying to the client, particularly if it’s been years since they’ve heard out of your model. For distinction, let’s take a look at the next Alaska Airlines email despatched throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

Alaska Airlines travel credits email

Alaska Airlines permits a 6-month extension for utilizing journey credit.

There was a ban on non-essential journey due to government-issued stay-at-home orders, so Alaska Airlines alerted any buyer who had current journey credit of their account that there was a 6-month extension on utilizing them.

Also, observe the empathetic language within the first paragraph: 

“Right now, we want to make sure you have the flexibility and space to make the best decisions for you and your family.”

Compare that to different airways, who despatched a normal thanks message concerning the comprehensive relief fund to anybody who’s ever booked a flight with them.

In normal, it’s at all times a good concept to personalize your campaigns. But it’s much more essential throughout an emergency or a disaster so your model comes throughout as empathetic.

4. What info or information factors assist this message?

According to crisis communications expert Doug Levy, you want three convincing particulars to make your main message plausible.

Using info or information factors provides legitimacy to your message with out feelings connected to the emergency or disaster.

It additionally permits the recipient to validate whether or not the message is reliable or not.

For instance, clothes retailer Madewell despatched a promotional email stating that its non-medical grade face masks have been prepared for purchasers.

Madewell mask email - above the fold

Clothing retailer Madewell promotes its new non-medical grade face masks.

However, Madewell is thought for its cute and trendy clothes—not essentially face masks. So within the subsequent a part of the email, Madewell describes the supplies used to make every masks layer.

Madewell mask email - below the fold

Madewell describes the supplies used of their new non-medical grade face masks.

During the time this email was despatched, the CDC had lately made suggestions to put on a masks to restrict the potential unfold of COVID-19.

Using info on this email not solely helps the recipient really feel protected and safe that the product is dependable but in addition encourages the client to browse the Madewell web site for different clothes gadgets.

5. Who ought to “send” or be the spokesperson for this message?

When your model is deciding who ought to “send” or be the spokesperson on your marketing campaign, it in the end comes down to who your recipients belief essentially the most.

According to disaster communications professional Doug Levy:

“People are much more likely to trust a person they know or have seen before. If there is no personal relationship, trust can be earned by a person who demonstrates that they give accurate information and have empathy for the audience.”

Either a type of components will assist with belief and credibility. But what in the event you discovered somebody who was each acquainted and empathetic?

Recently, Farmgirl Flowers CEO Christina Stembel went to her Instagram to ask for orders during the COVID-19 outbreak so she might proceed to pay her workers amidst a county-wide shelter-in-place mandate.

The response was so overwhelming that afterward, she despatched a thanks email to her clients.

Farmgirl Flowers thank you email - above the fold

Farmgirl Flowers thank you emai - below the fold

Farmgirl Flowers’ CEO and Founder thanks clients for his or her assist throughout COVID-19.

Brands don’t get a response like that from clients with out belief. So it’s clear that utilizing Stembel as a spokesperson for the model’s response to the emergency or disaster was the precise factor to do.

A Quick Recap on Emergencies and Crises

We at Iterable consider that whereas an emergency or a disaster can negatively influence your model’s operations or backside line, it will possibly additionally:

  • Allow corporations the chance to provide new services and products
  • Rethink operational procedures
  • Remind previous, current, and future clients why they need to belief your model with their enterprise

However, it may be tough to see that chance throughout the occasion itself. So that’s why we advocate counting on the Single Overriding Communications Objective (SOCO), which includes answering 5 questions earlier than manufacturers ship out any advertising marketing campaign or messaging:

  1. What is your main message?
  2. What would you like your recipients to do?
  3. What lists or segments want to learn about this?
  4. What info or information factors assist the message?
  5. Who ought to “send” or be the spokesperson for this message?

Want to understand how to use different cross-channel platforms, like SMS, in-app messaging or social media, throughout an emergency?

Download our full information to study what governments and nonprofits can train manufacturers about cross-channel messaging.

Now that you’ve the boldness and expertise to ship the precise campaigns and messaging throughout an emergency or a disaster, what are you going to do to construct belief together with your clients?

Unboxing Must-Have Marketing Campaigns: Emergencies & Crises

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