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  • Writer's picturecovattacomms

In the current environment, brands need to talk less and do more.

When the government couldn’t provide enough face masks for people, HKTV Mall slashed its sales commission on masks from 25% to 5%. It paid double the price to purchase a mask production facility. Watson's launched an online queuing platform to sell 30,000 boxes of masks without price hikes and commenced redemption only about one week later. When Hong Kong public hospitals were under-equipped with protection gear, the Li Ka Shing Foundation donated 250,000 face masks and protective gear to hospital staff and those in need, while AXA and Ping An Insurance launched free medical coverage for frontline medical staff. Menawhile Sands China Limited, donated 500,000 face masks to its employees.

Consumers and Clients don’t listen well when a brand says that it cares and that the phrase “Actions speak louder than words”, ring true now more than ever. For organisations navigating potential health risks, the wellbeing of employees and their families should always be of utmost importance. In terms of whether operations need to be shut down, it’s a decision best made in consultation with company stakeholders (including employees).

During times of a crisis or uncertainty, having a strong company culture and a defined sense of brand purpose is invaluable in helping a brand navigate these types of decisions. Communications tactics need to be shaped around the priorities of the business and its stakeholders. But, it’s essential to be mindful of how those priorities align with a company’s brand DNA and values. If a brand acts against its DNA and values by prioritising profit and publicity it may be seen as opportunistic or unsympathetic and could potentially backfire creating a negative brand image and worse, customers and clients walking away in droves. Regardless of how a brand chooses to communicate, it is essential to remember to think big picture and embrace an inclusive mindset as disease does not discriminate.

The following are a few tips for your consideration.

1. Let customer service representatives spend a longer time talking to customers on the phone. Let them talk to them like people – rather than treating them as a problem or following a strict script. Give the social media team permission to adapt brand messaging per platform and individual. Have empathy, listen and ask questions. People often communicate why the problem is so frustrating for them.

2. Show people that you understand that this isn’t just a service issue, but something that it impacts their health and well -being. Follow-up where possible and regularly too!. If you’ve had a long conversation with a colleague or senior manager about problems with their service, and the issue’s supposed to be being sorted out,check-in with them later to ensure that everything is sorted out. It’s a great way to show people that chatting with them wasn’t just about managing an issue, but that you’re genuinely concerned that they are okay.

3. Plan – [ failing to plan is like planning to fail ] . Set about drawing up a pre-planned set of guidelines for how to deal with the crises. Many organisations are only concerned with their immediate goals such as their latest sales or marketing plans and targets. Crisis planning is one of those things to do when they are not so busy.

4. Know The Threats- Every company must have an idea of the potential threats facing them. Crisis management is about speed of response. Pre-approved template initial statements should be ready to use if required. Acknowledge the problem/ issue

5. Even if you can’t offer an explanation to what is going on or why its occurred, then you need to tell people you are looking into it and will keep them updated. The first 48 hours of every crisis are critical. Not communicating in this period leads to a void that can and will easily be filled with thousands of negative comments that are then much harder to deal with. Ongoing communication to be shared in a timely matter, is just as important for all stakeholders to be informed accordingly. Creating systems or even off the shelf technology can very quickly be set up and information can be disseminated fairly quickly

6. Get Outside support

I would always recommend that you should always seek outside help. This is not an admission that a crisis cannot be handled, rather that the crisis leader is being particularly thorough. Outside help are there to support the crisis team leader and ensure that nothing is overlooked

7. Inform- 62% of customers are now using social media for customer service issues and nearly a third use branded social pages on Facebook to ask product questions. Therefore in any crisis social media channels are now one of the first places consumers go to vent their anger and frustration. Communities need to be kept informed and updated so feeding information through relevant social channels is a mustand it is also useful to include FAQ’s on your website.

8. Your team are a priority- It is also really important to keep your internal staff updated on the situation and advise them of what they should say and what they should do if they are asked by an external party about the issue. Staff need to be given regular briefings and updates, not only to ensure they have the most up to date picture should they be asked, but also to reassure them that things are under control.

9. Your brand also has external stakeholders that staff have, so they need to be confident and on message.

10. Monitor then respond

It is vital that conversations about the brand are monitored. This should be done as a matter of course to help inform e.g. marketing activity but particularly during a crisis to ensure effectiveness of messaging. Negative posts should be responded to. Even if the volume prohibits individual response, common themes should be addressed.

Finally it should not be forgotten thatalthough a crisis is always a dire time for any brand, in every crisis is an opportunity.

Sources: SCMP and The Times

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