The Copy Clinic: How To Talk To Your Customers In A Crisis
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“I feel like I don’t know how to talk to my customers at the moment. I mean, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and there’s a lot of hard stuff going on and I want to show I’m taking this seriously. But I don’t want everything to be all doom and gloom, or to lose the bigger picture of my business and how I can help people. How do I find a balance in my communications?”
I’m glad you mentioned the word balance, because I think that’s exactly what it’s about right now.
The coronavirus crisis is unprecedented in our lifetime and it’s weird and scary and strange and feels like it’s changed everything. So of course we feel like our marketing should change too, that we should be communicating in a completely different way. But I think there’s a balance to be found – I think we should be changing what we say, but not how we say it. In other words, this pandemic should absolutely change our message, but it shouldn’t change our voice.
When it comes to thinking about what you’re saying to people – i.e. the content of your marketing, which products/services you highlight and why, new offers, re-framing existing offers, etc – there’s no question that the current crisis will impact your message. Partly because it’s literally impacting your business, possibly forcing you to change what you offer or take real-life services online, etc. And partly because it’s simply too big a thing to not mention. It’s forming a huge part of your audience’s context now, and marketing that doesn’t take into account what people are feeling, thinking, and experiencing is never going to be effective. (Not to mention that if your messaging doesn’t at least acknowledge the current crisis then you’re at huge risk of sounding completely out of touch and tone deaf.)
So whether it’s on your website, your social media, your latest campaign, and whether it’s a complete re-positioning of a product/service or just a nod to the situation, what you’re saying to people should be different than the marketing you were putting out pre-virus.
But it’s hugely important that the current situation doesn’t change how you communicate with people – your voice, your style, your identity. You still need to sound like you. Don’t feel that just because this is a serious situation your voice suddenly has to be formal, or ‘grown-up’, or that you can’t ever use humour (you’ve got to pick your moments very carefully, of course – but now more than ever people need to be able to laugh).
Ultimately there’s no reason to sound any different than you did a month ago – in fact, there’s a huge reason not to. In a time of crisis and uncertainty, it’s even more important for brands to be authentic and consistent. Those things build trust. So if you’re usually fairly straight-laced, or high-brow, then great – stay that way. But if you’re usually a bit quirky, or sarcastic, or super positive, or straight-talking and sweary, stay that way too.
A great example of this is Brewdog, who’ve just made a drastic change to both their business and their message – they’re using falling demand for beer as an opportunity to use their distilleries to make hand sanitiser. While the content of their marketing has naturally changed to reflect that, they haven’t altered their voice. No sedate product names and boring health labels for them – just ‘Punk sanitiser’ and a reminder that their brand is ‘fiercely defiant and independent’.
Sure, they’re a big brand. But whatever size your business is, the principle is the same – the virus should change what you say, not who you are.
Bethany Joy works with small businesses to help them find a writing style and voice that reflects their passion and personality, as well as creating gettable and irresistible copy for their marketing materials. You can find out more about her at bethanyjoy.org
We also partner with Beth to run regular workshops that empower independent businesses to write more clearly and confidently about what they have to offer – our next one is on 18 June 2020. If you’d like to meet Beth before the workshop and learn more about sharpening up your brand voice, sign up to our May Zoom meetup where she’ll be presenting a short talk on just that subject!