Authentic, measured and to the point: Communications during a crisis, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, can make or break a company’s communications strategy, according to industry experts.
“This is an opportunity to really shine and stand out,” said Andrea Lekushoff, president of Toronto-based Broad Reach Communications. “Communications has the power to really elevate your brand. People remember how they were treated during a crisis for a long, long time.”
Lekushoff said communications must start and end with a company’s core values, and communicate to customers clearly about issues that impact them and ways the company will work with customers through problem times.
“Keep it short and to the point. Be honest. If closing, let them know, if open, tell them. If nothing’s changed, don’t send anything.”
Dealers and automakers across the country have been communicating with their customers by sending emails as well as posting videos and notices on their websites and social media platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
At Mazda Canada, President Dave Klan said the automaker steered away from an “urgent, buy-now kind of message. We rejected that from the start.”
Instead, Mazda let its customers and dealers know it would stand behind a dealer’s decision to close, and that it is open to discussions with customers affected by the crisis.
“Our tone is very much about being safe and that we’re here for them when they’re ready,” Klan said.
In an email sent March 26 to customers, Klan outlined plans to help customers with leases as well as financing.
“For existing lease customers whose lease is coming due but aren’t in a position to replace their vehicle at this time, we are providing lease extensions. And for customers who absolutely need a new vehicle during these uncertain times, we are offering payment deferrals on loans,” the email read.
Lekushoff said central to communications to customers should be information that helps them triage their needs. “Let customers know what they should be reaching out for, tell them what can wait.
“Stay open to questions. Even if you’re closed, check your email, check your voicemail and if you have to, keep a file so you can get back in touch when you’re open.”
She added an excellent example of communications during a crisis comes from Galen Weston Jr., whose updates on the COVID-19 pandemic to customers of the Loblaw Companies’ grocery stores, “are informative, factual, empathetic and helpful.”