Sh*t happens. Whether it’s directly connected to your business or not, events, trends, and situations emerge that can affect the meaning behind the content you publish. We’ve seen it before with published content during times of war, 9/11, and the housing market crash. A social voice that would have been perfectly innocuous in a typical climate can come off as insensitive or even offensive during high-stress times.
The social voice behind the commercial missed the mark by quite a bit. Credit: KFC
For example, this KFC commercial was set to run through this spring. In a normal situation, it would be a creative, well-executed commercial. But with the spread of COVID-19 and a large national push for practicing clean, healthy habits, the depiction of people licking their fingers in public came off as counterproductive and anxiety-inducing. The commercial was immediately pulled and saved for later on.
Amid a crisis, tragedy, or catastrophe, your content may fall flat or even receive backlash. To minimize the damage and practice social media sensitivity, it is crucial to quickly pivot your social voice and content to match that of the situation.
How to pivot your social voice during a crisis
It may be a bit too late to just delete posts or pause the publishing process. Even if your delete content quickly, it doesn’t mean it didn’t affect your clients, customers, or stakeholders and how they perceive your brand. If your content is already receiving public backlash, it’s better to rip the band-aid off with a timely apology.
After that, it’s time to tackle future content.
This should start from the content on your platform and span to any connected third-party partners that may mention you or your products. Look at your scheduled social posts, upcoming blog content, any commercials or video assets that will soon be published.
Then, move on to any PR or third-party planned content. Reach out to affiliates, media companies, brand ambassadors and influencers to understand what they have in the pipeline. Any public platform that has plans to promote your brand or products will ultimately affect your brand rep with their message, so start the conversation to see what needs to be postponed.
Can any of it be viewed as unnecessary or unacceptable in the current climate?
You may have to dig pretty deep to come up with an answer to that question. When you spend brainpower, time, and energy creating high-quality content, it can be hard to see how it could be misconstrued. So, you need to put on an unbiased hat to re-review the content with new eyes.
The good news? You can always save those assets, campaigns, and partnership content for later when it’s appropriate.
Your social media managers need to all be on the same page on how to handle an influx of comments or questions they haven’t yet dealt with.
Create a list of questions that customers have asked, or may ask in the future in regards to how your business is affected by the current crisis. Once you have a list of proposed questions, create short, streamlined answers that match the tone of the social platform. This can be distributed to your social team for quality assurance. Or, if only one person handles social communication, this script can greatly reduce the amount of time spent answering these new questions.
If you have a very engaged and inquisitive audience, it can make sense to turn this script into a custom FAQ page to share on social to minimize the amount of outreach. The benefit of having a custom FAQ page instead of sharing updates on social is that the page can be constantly updated if any answers need to be updated or changed. The answers share with your audience will always be the most recent version.
Even if your content is deemed socially acceptable in the current climate, continuing to post a lot of unrelated or irrelevant content on social feeds can seem insincere. Especially if people are looking to their feeds to get the fastest info on the current events. Whether your community is dealing with tragedy, natural disaster, or some other wide-spread stressful situation, crowding social feeds with unrelated content can seem obtuse and selfish.
This can include the tome paid social ads, organic posts as well, even if you do slow your roll and decrease the number of posts. If the tone of the post is upbeat and happy during a time of crisis, your company can seem uninformed.
On top of seeming selfish, there is no point sharing information that people are not currently paying attention to. Don’t crowd social media with irrelevant info, and save your best content for when people are ready to listen again.
If you are not well-versed in the situation, there is no point in speaking on it. By understanding the full situation, you find where your industry can add value to your communication. In times of crisis, the most relevant and helpful messages you can spread is that of asking or giving.
What can you give your audience to help alleviate the results of the crisis? Understand especially how it affects your audience to find talking points and options for alleviation. Your overall business goal is to solve customer pain points with your products. So, if you offer a solution in the current climate, make sure that your customers know about it. This can be tips on how to handle new stresses related to your industry, special discounts on your products, or leniencies in your customer offerings to help lessen the financial blow that tends to accompany a crisis.
In terms of asking, make sure that your audience knows you are here to help and want to understand their pain points for further relief. Letting your audience know that you are open to altering your normal business processes in reaction to new pain points can cover serious ground in gaining loyal customers.
You can also ask for help from your community in the form of monetary donations, resource donations, and volunteer opportunities in response to the crisis.
If your customers look to you as a thought leader or culture driver, you may start mapping out how your company can get involved with related charities or movements to continue to have a relevant voice during a crisis. Taking an active part in crisis management allows you to use your brand voice even if it is not directly related to the crisis.
If you are not connected to the event in any way and don’t plan to help, then slow your content rollouts and save space for the relevant companies.
Temporary changes in your business processes affect how your customers can support you. If you are offering leniencies, changes in the buying process, altered hours, list them on your social, website and in an email blast. Spreading this information is crucial, especially in a time where people assume you may just fully be closed. Make sure your customers are aware they can still get your products or services, even if the process to do so has altered.
At a loss with how to communicate with your audiences during a crisis? Look to the industry leaders. How are your direct and indirect competitors handling public communication? What tone of voice are they using? Did they increase or decrease publishing frequency?
Keep your brand voice, but match your tone of voice to that of your peers. It may seem out of character to copy your competitor’s social communication strategy. But, by falling in line with what is considered acceptable outreach for your industry, you minimize chances of content backlash. On top of that, you can gain a new perspective on how other companies are reacting to the crisis, what charities they’ve backed and what their customers are asking them.
A crisis doesn’t last forever, so an altered social voice won’t last forever either. But if done right from the start, you can come out of a crisis with appreciative customers that have a refreshed perspective of your company values.
Need help constructing an effective social voice? Reach out to our team!