Communicating to customers in a crisis

When the world is going mad, you still need to secure new business and reach new audiences by getting your marketing strategies right and your business development plans in order. Liz Cartwright outlines why businesses working through the COVID-19 outbreak need to act now.

The time to act

When a crisis hits, it’s more important than ever that you push to make new business connections and reach different audiences. Now is the time to act and get your marketing strategies and business development plans in order

Whether B2C or B2B, brands need to be communicating with their customers and reaching new markets. Keeping a dialogue open is more important than ever before and you need to be easily found online. With the hope being that events and activities will resume as normal by the autumn, businesses need to be in a position to get fully back into the swing of things.

In short – this means investment in marketing and PR should continue; aligning strategies, implementing different tactics for the duration of the crisis, and coming out the other side prepared to make the most of the opportunities available.

Why is marketing and PR essential during a crisis?

This blog will discuss the specific tactics that can be particularly valuable during an unexpected or unprecedented crisis such as the COVID-19 outbreak. But first – why is it the right time to revise your strategies and work even closer with your PR team?

1. You need to keep communication open with employees as the status of the crisis situation changes rapidly and the majority of the workforce move to remote working.

2.Businesses need to similarly keep dialogue going while reassuring customers and stakeholders.

3.For many of our clients in the property and construction sector, being proactive with communities and lending support is also valuable and a great way to build relationships.

4.Your business might now be relevant to new markets – PR and marketing remains the best way to tap into these and support your business development plans, as well as continuing to promote your services to existing clients.

What are the key PR and marketing tactics to use during a crisis?

1. Media training

It is highly likely that your business will need spokespeople to be put in place. They will be the public face of the business and may be called upon to be interviewed or be quoted for comments. This tactic includes intensive media training courses, delivered at client premises or at the Cartwright offices, the creation of a media response protocol, and headshots and photography to support any comments requested by the press.

2. Business continuity

Business continuity planning is the process of creating a process of recovery from a potential threat. A good plan ensures that people and assets are protected and can function quickly if something untoward happens. Our team supports clients by putting together robust business continuity plans, which include internal comms and internal processes. Our plans can include determining risk and how to deal with it, processes, comms channels for staff, and easy ways to engage through events and virtual events. We can also advise on recovery, internal business processes and training.

3. Internal communications

Communicating with employees is vital. Establishing clear and coherent internal communications is an incredibly valuable tactic during a national crisis. This activity would include channel audits and recommendations, newsletter and e-newsletter creation and distribution, alongside policy and statement creation.

4. Crisis management and statement creation

The Cartwright team includes NCTJ qualified journalists which means we know the media law book and think like the press. It’s crucial to get expert support if the public spotlight is on your company. This includes media liaison and relationship management, crisis protocol development and management, statement creation and communication, as well as sentiment and impact analysis and evaluation.

5. Stakeholder engagement and supply chain comms

Your clients and supply chain need to be clearly communicated with. This not only protects reputation and maintains relationships but reduces enquiry levels. Essential activity includes recommendations of how to engage with stakeholders and manage supply chains, tactics for sustained communication through owned channels such as LinkedIn, and the option of virtual events.

6. External communications and reaching out to new audiences

Continuing with media relations and existing PR strategies is vital to reach new audiences that may now have a reason to do business with you, while maintaining communications with those that already know you. Businesses should continue with robust PR plans incorporating owned channels such as websites and social media and earned channels like the media. Plus, in some cases utilising paid channels (advertising) alongside bespoke tactics to communicate with targeted audiences across multiple platforms.

7. Marketing and business development support

In-house marketing consultants are often under pressure to deliver, particularly during and following a crisis. An agency can provide much needed support when it comes to marketing strategy planning and consultancy, marketing collateral design and production, and content marketing for lead generation.

8. Search Engine Optimisation – capitalising on new peaks of interest

Continuing to optimise your website is crucial to being found by potential clients as well as reinforcing your USPs to those who know you. Businesses should be getting in front of new markets through website audits and recommendations, making any required technical fixes, optimising content, undertaking keyword audits and content marketing, plus, putting in place pay-per-click and social media advertising strategies.

9. Webinars and virtual events

When meeting face-to-face is not an option, as during the COVID-19 outbreak, virtual events and round tables are viable and useful ways of communicating with valuable groups of people. An agency can manage webinars and virtual round tables including the formation of topics, invitation of viewers, creation of slides and use of notes for further content. This also includes the creation of podcasts and live streaming to social media channels.

The Cartwright Communications team is still – and will remain – open for business. All account teams are on hand to discuss any of the tactics mentioned in this blog. Get in touch with us today.


By Liz Cartwright

Liz heads up the team and set up Cartwright Communications in 2006 after working as a journalist for more than 20 years on titles including the Nottingham Post and Daily Mail. Liz’s PR experience spans the property, professional services and public sectors and she has significant crisis communications and internal communications expertise.