How to Stick to Helpful Messaging in a Time of Crisis

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By Caleb Liptak

In times of crisis, it’s sometimes too easy for companies to be opportunistic – taking advantage of a negative situation for their own gain. Most consumers can see right through this, but it doesn’t stop many from taking advantage of stakeholders during times of vulnerability.  

The current COVID-19 crisis has forced companies around the world to face tough questions head on. Do we keep marketing our products and risk appearing insensitive? Do we leverage a global disaster to increase our bottom line? Do we just fade into the background for a while and take the financial hit until things go back to normal?  

For some companies, the answers to these questions are glaringly obvious, but for others, the line between being tone deaf and savvy is almost invisible. Luckily, there is a very straightforward (yet challenging) strategy to approach your messaging during this time, and that is to answer this question: 

What problem can I solve for my customers? 

Offering a genuine solution to your customers is a tried-and-true way to not only continue a relationship with your stakeholders, but also to avoid sounding tone deaf, and most importantly, to offer a solution rather than a product. 

In some cases, your current product or service offerings may not provide direct solutions to the problems your customers are facing during a crisis. In these instances, you may need to pivot from your regularly scheduled programming and offer something new. A great example of this is Anheuser Busch’s recent pivot to making hand sanitizer in its distilleries in response to the shortage caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. This is a perfect example of a company working to solve one of the biggest problems facing its customers, even though it has nothing to do with its normal product offerings. 

Another similar of a company adjusting operations to offer solutions to its customers is local restaurant chain, Tijuana Flats. T-Flats recently opened up “Flats Fresh Markets” at each all of its locations. These in-store markets offer select grocery items such as fresh meat and produce, paper products, bottled beverages and more. With many people looking to minimize trips to the grocery store, these markets give guests the opportunity to purchase essential items while picking up carryout orders, ultimately lowering the number of separate trips. 

Another example of a small business pivoting to provide a solution to its customers is the Enzian Theater in Winter Park, Florida. Forced to close its doors due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Enzian didn’t admit defeat, putting their movies online and offering virtual tickets to would-be movie goers. This solution that not only allowed the theater to continue bringing in revenue, but also gave its customers an avenue to continue enjoying their movies from the comfort of home.  

So, as your company continues to look for ways to stay relevant, necessary and successful in a time of unprecedented fear and change, don’t forget to consistently ask yourself: What problem can I solve for my customers?