Your Silence Will Be Noted: 3 Reasons Not to Go Dark In a Crisis

Definitely prioritize your crisis communications. But do not turn off your blog, shut down the email list, or go dark. 

Instead, it’s best if you shift your content, but keep content production steady. This has the effect of: 1) reassuring investors and stakeholders, 2) reassuring employees, both past and future (after all, you’ll need talent after the recovery is in place), and 3) steadying customers.

Rather than hunkering behind a thick curtain (think: the Wizard of Oz), U.S. history is dotted with leaders that used communications during times of crises to reassure constituents, keep them informed, and lay out next steps. 

For example, Franklin D. Roosevelt got the entire country to tune into his fireside chats—shepherding Americans gently and steadily out of the Great Depression. Winston Churchill ignited the fight in England’s reserves with impassioned speeches that blanketed the airwaves. (If you want to relive his gorgeous words, we recommend Erik Larson’s newest bestseller, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz.) And Johnson & Johnson practically wrote the playbook on crisis management in 1982, with the Tylenol product tampering recall. James Burke, the company’s chairman, was forthright with the media and was eventually hailed as a hero. 

Today, instead of radio or TV, communications are most quickly and effectively delivered online. Digital helps you to laser focus on each of these audiences:

1. Content to reassure investors and stakeholders

If anyone wants to see you thrive after a crisis, it’s your investors, customers and fans, employees, and other stakeholders. By sending out well-timed emails, posting on social media, and sharing articles, you can share your plans and progress. 

We’ve seen this modeled recently in the emails that have flown into all of our inboxes from retailers, restaurants, and hotels—informing us of the steps they’ve taken to keep spaces clean, employees on the payroll, and local communities supported. 

But these missives shouldn’t be limited to the B2C community. Your investors want to read how you’re being good stewards of their trust and faith. Prior to the revelation of the Johnson & Johnson Tylenol tampering, the stock was near a 52-week high. Some shareholders panicked and dumped their stock, but deft handling by Chairman Burke kept stakeholders well-informed—rewarded by a stock rebound to its 52-week high in just two months.

2. Content to reassure employees

Your employees want to know you have their back—and will continue to do so as the crisis unfolds. Knowing you are concerned about their well-being—professionally, economically, and holistically—speaks volumes about their chosen employer. It can also quell a threat as insidious as COVID-19: namely, the rumor mill. Being transparent and authentic pays dividends, which includes conveying your own concerns, as well as highlighting the bright spots. 

That glimpse of sunshine could be sharing encouraging notes from customers, profiling employees, and praising acts of goodwill. 

It can also open the pipeline to crowdsourcing ideas from your team. Great ideas are often born out of crisis. You may be in leadership, but you are not alone. Like Churchill, you can rally your troops to get through this blitz. 

And when things return to normal, employees will remember and value your efforts to reassure them. This may arrive in the form of sky-high ratings on Glassdoor—or retention of top performers.

3. Content to steady customers

Your customers have invested dollars, company budgets, time, and trust in you. They are rooting for you, and want to continue the relationship you’ve forged. Don’t go dark on them. Use this time of uncertainty to deepen your connection. This might mean a steady flow of communication (not a torrent, mind you) to help assuage fears. 

Tell them what’s going on now, and what they can look ahead to. If you are struggling, that can be OK. Customers are often your best source of leads. And if you are thriving, they want to bask in your good news. 

Recalling the Tylenol case, customers didn’t flee the brand. Knowing that J&J was doing everything in its power to ensure safety (here’s where it helps to mention your facts), they flocked back. The proof of brand loyalty and trust is in the sales. Today, the Tylenol brand encompasses 28 products, including sleep aids and pain relievers for children. 

Look ahead to the light at the end of the tunnel

These are undoubtedly dark days we’re living in—but that doesn’t mean your business should go dark to match. Shine a beacon of light and hope out to your audience. Together, you’ll get through this. 

For help with your copywriting and communications during this crisis, get in touch.

Clients warm up to Michele immediately and so do those who read her writing. As MarketSmiths' Senior Director of Strategy, Michele makes even the most complex B2B concepts inviting and knows how to add just the right touch of personality. Michele's experienced in three-word taglines and 30-page websites and everything in-between—white papers, press releases, e-communications, brochures, social media, and video scripts. She's worked at award winning agencies and in strategy at HBO and Tri-Star Pictures. She loves (and we mean loves) anything that gets the wind in her hair—boating, biking, skiing.

Michele earned her business acumen with an MBA in Finance from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in marketing, summa cum laude, from Boston University.

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