The recent epidemic has forced many brands to become crisis communicators.
This requires walking a tight rope—on the one hand, you need to support your customers during a time when they’re more reluctant to part with their money. On the other hand, you need to keep your business afloat and retain your brand equity.
If you find yourself in this position, you could probably use some crisis communication examples to help you along. J.P. Morgan and Walmart are two great brands to learn from.
Let’s look at how these two market leaders have handled their crisis communications, and what other brands can learn from their approach.
Walmart’s Crisis Communications
Walmart took the very important step early on of building out an owned content hub with all of their COVID-19 crisis communications. They then set about putting out content on a wide variety of themes, including crisis management, news and updates, employee relations, impact assessment, public health & safety, and more.
“We’ve been churning out content that lives both on our internal content hub and that we’re sharing via third-party outlets,” explains Aaron Bernstein, a senior director at Walmart. “We feel that hitting a lot of different kinds of messaging that speaks to different audiences is critical. There’s a lot of different ways we need to explain what we’re doing during this critical time, and content is the best way to do that.”
A good crisis communication example from Walmart is this post on how Walmart is supporting their employees during COVID-19. It’s written by Walmart’s Chief People Officer, and lays out all the steps Walmart is taking to aid their employees physically, emotionally, and financially during the pandemic.
It works as a smart piece of crisis communications for a few reasons. For one, it’s comforting. Even if you’re not a Walmart employee, it’s reassuring to hear that a large corporation is doing right by their people during a time when there’s so much negative news. It’s also helpful for Walmart shoppers to know that Walmart is taking precautions to protect their employees.
Another smart tactic Walmart takes with their crisis communications is that they don’t make it all about their business. They also have resources on where to get tested for COVID-19 and how to go shopping safely.
“There’s so much anxiety around what’s going on right now,” says Bernstein. “We’re trying to be a single point of truth. If Walmart can deliver the most trustworthy and helpful information on this crisis, whether that be with a video, podcast, email, or some other channel, we’ll have done our job.”
J.P. Morgan’s Crisis Communications
J.P. Morgan is our next crisis communications example. Like Walmart, they’ve built out an owned content hub with a ton of information, including weekly updates on the government stimulus plan, and guides to the CARES Act, Paycheck Protection Program, and Main Street Lending Program. The hub also includes how J.P. Morgan can support your business, information on the donations the bank is making to support those affected by the pandemic, and links to blog posts with additional information.
Jamie Roo, head of digital marketing content strategy at J.P. Morgan, says all of their content is designed to reinforce one simple message:
“We want to let our customers know that we’re here for them during this difficult time,” Roo says. “We’re primarily in the advice business and our clients need our advice now more than ever. So we feel a responsibility to put out content on what to do with your finances as well as interpret the news that’s coming through about the virus, the stimulus plan, and other government assistance. All of this is designed to be helpful.”
Part of being helpful means increasing content production. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Roo says J.P. Morgan has increased their publishing schedule on market commentary to three times per week. They’re also hosting client calls twice per week, and publishing data reports about how the COVID-19 epidemic is impacting the economy.
The most important lesson Roo has learned from J.P. Morgan’s crisis communications? Don’t be tone deaf:
“COVID-19 has been a good exercise in being tuned in and aligned with what clients need,” says Roo. “In normal times it can be easy to be less in tune with what people need. But right now, it’s so important to be talking about the topics your customers care about.”
So what can we learn from these content leaders and their companies’ crisis communication examples? There are three key takeaways:
Good crisis communications are empathetic. In both crisis communication examples we shared, the goal of the brand was to appeal to the reader’s emotions and provide them with reassurance.
“We want our clients to feel that we’re trustworthy and careful,” says Roo. “And that’s what our content tries to reinforce.”
Empathy comes from a customer-first approach. You need to be thinking about what’s best for your clients, not your bottom line. Before writing any piece of content, ask yourself if it serves your customer’s best interests. Tone deafness comes from self-serving content.
Keep in mind that you’re playing the long game here. Great empathetic content might not generate a ton of leads during a crisis. However, it will keep you top of mind with your customers, which will help your business bounce back faster once the crisis comes to an end.
As the old adage goes, people will remember how you made them feel long after they remember what you did or said.
The second commonality in the crisis content examples we shared is their utility. Both J.P. Morgan and Walmart strive to provide their readers with information they could actually use in some way.
You can see now how utility and empathy work hand-in-hand: Empathetic content serves the customer, and useful content implies empathy.
“Some of our content is designed to inspire the heart, and some of our content is designed to satisfy the head,” says Bernstein.
Our research has found that there’s a ton of engagement from readers around informational and educational content, as well as content around crisis management, crisis impact assessment, and content around how businesses are supporting their local communities.
It’s also important brands take a multi-channel approach. Walmart and J.P. Morgan both utilize a variety of different content types on their owned content hubs, including blog content, downloadable guides, social media posts, and videos.
Creating content in multiple formats allows you to meet your customers where they are and create unique engagement opportunities.
The last component to a good crisis communication strategy is measurement. You could be producing high-quality content that is both empathetic and useful, but if you don’t know how that content is performing, you won’t be able to gauge whether it’s serving its intended purpose.
And for every brand, content marketing “success” looks different, especially during times of crisis.
“We’re paying close attention to how readers are responding to our content and extracting insights from that,” says Bernstein. “We then take those inputs and use them to inform future content strategy.”
Walmart and J.P. Morgan use Knotch to measure their content performance. This provides them with both quantitative data on their content performance, as well as attitudinal and behavioral feedback.
“Using Knotch we found that a specific piece of content we published got more true engagement than anything else we’ve published,” says Roo. “That was really eye opening for us to see and it’s helped us determine other topics that we’re in a strong position to provide advice on.”
“We use Knotch units to see analytics around responsiveness and persuasion,” adds Bernstein. “It’s been very powerful to understand how customers feel about Walmart.”
Using Knotch For Your Crisis Communications
If you’d like to use the Knotch Content Intelligence Platform for your crisis communications, visit the Knotch COVID-19 resource center to apply for free.