Communication through a crisis

There’s an adage in marketing that you should always invest through a downturn. Research has shown that those who stay visible during tough economic times will rebound more quickly when things start to improve. Steady communication with your clients and customers at such times, even if you do less of it, is favourable than stopping entirely.  Fade away, and you jeopardise brand loyalty and risk a competitor moving into the space you leave behind.

However, this crisis is very different, and the usual rules have changed considerably. During previous downturns, brands could pretty much continue with their existing pre-crisis content strategies. Obviously, they had to adjust their messaging slightly and be aware of any budget restrictions, but these were typically small modifications rather than wholesale changes. Now, companies are having to shift their messaging radically, and update it constantly as the crisis develops, much of it being done in the dark!

One of the big challenges is that the established understanding of their audience has become rapidly outdated and is constantly changing. Customer preferences that once seemed certain have altered drastically in a matter of days. And they are likely to change repeatedly in the coming weeks and months. Here are some recommendations to help guide your communications through these turbulent times.


It’s key to remember that your clients are also going through difficult times. Decisions that just a few months ago seemed straightforward now appear fraught with risk. Their customers’ priorities have changed, and many are looking for guidance from experts. Now is the time to empathise, help guide their decision-making, and show how well you understand their businesses, clients, supply chains and partners.


During tough times, it can be tempting to focus marketing resources on short-term sales efforts to win new clients and generate new revenues. Clearly this is understandable, but don’t do it at the expense of your loyal, longer-term customers. Stay in touch with these core clients, even if they’re not planning to buy from you in the immediate future. They are busy, but they will welcome advice and inspiration.


Whether a recovery comes in two months or 12, companies will eventually dust themselves down and return to seeking growth. Your content strategy should prepare for that time and ensure that you’re ready for it. And, perhaps most importantly, stay positive: manage the short-term risks, but keep one eye on better times ahead. Optimism will shine through in your communications and will rub off on your audience, everyone is looking for good news.


Building the brand is key to reducing business risk over the long term. Strong brands generate associations that influence purchasing decisions long into the future. Neglecting to invest in the brand, even during difficult times, stores up problems because it weakens the associations that drive purchasing. Bear in mind that how you act and communicate during this period will be remembered long into the future. Those brand associations, positive and negative, will be lasting.


Customers will remember the businesses that helped them, and society at large, during the crisis. Be generous with your advice. This will build trust and reinforce a long-term emotional connection with your brand. This is a time when audiences need insight more than ever, and it offers businesses a chance to build strong, lasting connections.