Crisis Communication: Practical Tips to Pivot Your Messaging

Learn how to pivot your marketing message during a crisis, ensuring it is appropriate, empathetic, and valuable.

Michael M.
April 16, 2020
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It’s crazy out there right now. There's no doubt about it. Our world, both as professionals in our respective fields and as individuals in our communities, is rapidly changing and will likely never be the same. The distinction between an essential vs non-essential business (read more about that from our friends at NiceJob here) has plagued many cleaning business owners with confusion and uncertainty. Some businesses are doing well and some are barely hanging on. 

Wherever you're at, marketing is still important. It's still necessary to connect and engage with current and future customers. In fact, in some ways it’s more important than ever! There’s one major aspect to your marketing that must be changed though: Your message

In the marketing world, we call this “pivoting" your message. All it means is that you must reevaluate and restructure your messaging to be appropriate for the crisis that we’re in. While it’s not always easy to do this, we’re going to walk through some examples and go over some practical tips to help you pivot your messaging.

Pivoting your message

There are a lot of variables to consider and every business is different. Whether jobs have slowed down a lot, or you're busier than ever, you want to make sure your past customers know you're still there. So, regardless of your business situation, the easiest way to break this down is into 3 parts: Acknowledge, empathize, and offer value

Acknowledge what’s going on in your marketing messaging. Whether it’s Instagram posts or a monthly email newsletter, make sure that you are being mindful of the fact that life is different. Regardless of your opinions or your views on the situation, don’t just carry on like business is the same and people’s lives are the same. It's both necessary and appropriate to address the crisis directly. Don't hide from it or be scared to talk about it. People will appreciate your honesty and mindfulness of what's going on in the world around them.

Empathize with those who have been affected by the crisis. This is where you have an even greater opportunity to humanize your business. Show your customers WHO you are and show them that you genuinely do care about them and their safety. Highlighting the measures you have taken to keep your customers and their families safe is a big part of this. Also, this is a great time to really personalize your communication. Make it from YOU, the owner. Not just the general company.

Offer value to your community instead of pushing ads. While some level of advertising may still be effective and/or necessary for you, try to provide as much value content as possible. This can take a multitude of forms for a cleaning business, but a great approach is educating your community. Write blog posts about the latest home cleaning methods that customers can do themselves. Post Instagram stories showing how you sanitize a building, with explanations of each component of the process. Send out an email or a text to past customers when a major change is made to local laws regarding the crisis. Any of these things, and so much more, are simple and effective ways to offer value to your community.

Putting in the work

Now, let’s get a bit more practical. Hopefully you already have automated emails or texts going out to your past customers. During a crisis, it will be necessary to change what you say in those. One of our customers shared with us a great example of how to pivot email messaging during the current COVID-19 pandemic:

At this difficult time, we at [COMPANY_NAME] want to help the people and businesses in our community fight the COVID-19 epidemic in any way we can.
Using products approved by the EPA to eliminate SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, [COMPANY_NAME]'s professional, deep cleaning services and products can help ensure a safer environment for your family, employees and customers. However, at no additional cost:
  • We will add sanitizer when cleaning your carpets, floors and counter tops, and upholstery.
  • If desired, we will apply our hospital grade sanitizer to all common touchpoints in your home or office, such as, doorknobs, stair rails, light switches, appliance handles and other places that hands frequently touch.
  • To protect our customers and our employees we are wearing gloves, and sanitizing all equipment between jobs and at the end of each business day. And, if requested, our technicians will wear face masks and booties.
Because we provide professional cleaning and sanitizing, we meet the criteria to be an “essential business” established by [COMPANY_STATE] and the federal government. Therefore, we can help you keep you home and workplace safe right now!
During this unprecedented crisis, we take the responsibility of promoting peoples’ safety and health very seriously. We are continuously monitoring the evolving epidemic response so that we make decisions that will maintain the health and safety of both our team members and you, our customers.
Thank you and stay safe,

An email like this hits all three of the main points in multiple areas. For example, the very first sentence acknowledges the situation. Then, the last paragraph very clearly empathizes with customers by stating how much of a priority it is for your business to keep them safe. And the middle of the email is all value! This example has a very specific offer of going the extra mile to provide additional sanitation while on the job, at no extra cost. This sort of pivot in your messaging is sure to keep customers more comfortable with your services and at the very least, will let them know that you care!

Along with your automated campaigns, this same style of messaging should be applied to any and all direct customer contact. Say you’re using a platform like Hatch to engage with some new leads through texting. Making sure that lead knows what steps you will take to keep them safe is huge (and could help you get the job even)! No matter what type of contact you’re having with a customer, this messaging change goes beyond just direct marketing materials. It should be in every form of internal and external communication that you have.

There’s one more side to pivoting your messaging that is crucial to look at: your employees. As the owner, you may not be the one in contact with customers on a day-to-day basis. As such, it’s extremely important to train your employees on how to align their actions and words with the pivoted messaging you’re putting out. Make sure that each person under you knows the additional services you’re offering, or what steps you as a company are taking to keep both yourselves and your customers safe.

The result

When you pivot your messaging, you’re setting yourself up for future success. Once a crisis is over and the economy starts to recover, there will be a resurgence of jobs that need to be done. So when you use this opportunity to serve your community and your customers by being a voice of reason and stability among the chaos, you’re establishing yourself in their minds as the best option to go to. And remember, when it comes to your crisis messaging, acknowledge what’s going on, empathize with others, and offer value.

Michael M.
April 16, 2020
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