Crises befall us when we least expect them. Some may be small like a short supply of stock while others are gigantic like the current Covid-19 crisis. They are hard to foresee and as individuals, we react to them in very different ways. However, as a brand, how you talk to your customers or followers in such times can really push up your credibility and brand value or flush it down the drain.
Needless to say, a lot of what you communicate during a crisis like the one we are in right now will depend on what your brand, its audience, and its tone of voice are. A travel company, a fashion blog, and a charity will all have things to say that are vastly different from each other.
Some of your content will also depend on where you and your audience are and how localized or global the crisis is. Then there is the question of what the crisis itself is – a pandemic, financial meltdown, natural disaster, or something else.
- Be proactive
Crises are times of great uncertainty and anxiety. There’s a plethora of conflicting information flying around, like rumors, fake news and misinformation, and propaganda. Your customers or followers are most likely stressed and scared. This is why it’s important to inform them about what you’re doing within your scope of things.
For instance, if your brand has a physical presence like brick and mortar stores, reassure your patrons of your hygiene and cleanliness processes and any other steps you’ve taken to prevent the spread of disease.
Take a look at what Airbnb did. As a company hard hit by the current scenario, it could have taken a cold, hard approach to customers canceling bookings. Instead, it sent out emails telling them exactly how to make cancellations and reassuring them that they would get all their money back. Usually, the issues of cancellation and refunds are left buried in the fine print for customers to decipher by themselves but by being transparent and forthcoming (especially when this crisis directly impacts their business), Airbnb sends out a message that it is a company we can trust.
- Pause business as usual
Under regular circumstances, you might be sending out a range of emails, like new releases or product launches, recommended products, weekly newsletters, and more. However, in the thick of a crisis, such emails could appear frivolous and, in some cases, insensitive.
So, unless you are giving out pertinent information that your customers or followers need to know or your regular communications involve something like providing information (like The New York Times’ Morning Briefings or articles curated by Sentiers, the weekly newsletter), pause most of your regular emails or pivot to crisis-specific information, and only resume once the general sentiment improves.
- Raise money
There are many out there who could use a helping hand during difficult times. There are also many people who are better off but unsure who to donate to. If you are a charity organization raising money for a cause, use your email communication channel to let your customers or followers know how they can contribute. Better still, you can change your communications and tell your community how donations are being used, who it is benefiting and coax those who haven’t to do their part.
It could be as simple as donating a portion of your sales, like clothing brand Diesel does, organizing a benefit sale, or, if you partner with a charity, taking your customers and followers to the donations page.
- Together in tough times
This brings us to the heart of any crisis: the community. It is hard to know how crises will pan out. While we are in one, everything seems uncertain and scary. This is why knowing that you are not alone and there are others to lean on during this time is comforting.
There are a few different ways to do this. Some brands prefer to send out heartfelt letters that show their human side while others like Lululemon provide access to an online resource hub and use social media to bring followers together.
- Lockdown content
Not every brand can raise money during a crisis, and even if you are doing it, now is a good time to step back and look at your content section, especially if the bulk of your business involves selling stuff.
Link your email subscribers with useful topical articles like budgeting hacks, remote working tips and other things they can use during this time. If you are a business that is unable to operate due to restrictions, having a well-written content section helps you stay relevant and resourceful in your customers’ eyes.
Google plugs its emails with its product – amazing search capabilities – to help you find nifty things when you are spending a lot of time at home.
There are also many ways to go wrong with your emails at this time. While we won’t mention any specific HTML email template examples to illustrate this, we can tell you three things you shouldn’t be doing:
- Be tone-deaf
By not taking control of your communications, you can just easily go from well-loved to downright offensive and tone-deaf. This is why if you send out emails advertising a sale or exhorting people to travel, for instance, you can be sure it will backfire. The best practice at times like these is to embrace radio silence and wait for the storm to pass.
- Go after prospects
Drip emails are designed to elicit responses out of prospective customers, and a crisis might not be the best time to evangelize. So, if you have set up drip email marketing, you should pause it until things return to normal. Or as we say, zip the drip!
There is an exception though: If you run a charity or support a cause that’s directly affected by the crisis, there is no harm in sending up a follow-up email to someone who almost made a donation to find out what went wrong or how to improve the experience. After all, it is for a good cause. Just don’t be too pushy.
- Piggyback on fads
There is a very large, solid line between showing solidarity during a disaster and using it to push your offerings. While a lot of your customers or subscribers might be whipping up Dalgona coffee or making TikTok videos, you should be careful when it comes to jumping on the bandwagon (or worse, creating a special hashtag and asking them to use it). You risk not only sounding very desperate but also offending people who might actually be suffering or having a hard time, in general.
Unprecedented times call for your special attention when it comes to communicating with your customers. While we have listed the dos and don’ts of email communication for you in this blog, we hope these will help you create awesome campaigns that will strengthen your brand image and brand recall value.
Kevin George is Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing custom email design and coding companies, and specializes in crafting professional email templates, PSD to HTML email conversion, and free HTML email templates. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and eats and breathes email marketing. He enjoys sharing his insights and thoughts on email marketing best practices on his blog.