The dictionary defines crisis as “a time of intense difficulty, trouble or danger”. It also says that a crisis can be a time when important decisions must be made. Business crises can range in scale from PR nightmares to national disasters. In extreme cases, the crisis can even impact the entire globe.
Goals during a crisis tend to include maintaining business continuity, protecting the future of the business and providing customers with the right types of services in the best manner possible. And while businesses of all sizes realize these goals are important, it can be difficult to know where to start — especially when you’re facing many other stressors and uncertainties.
Content creation is an effort that can help your business with many of these goals during a crisis. Discover how you can leverage content in positive ways when dealing with a crisis.
What Types of Crises Can Businesses Face?
Business crisis management or disaster planning isn’t a new concept. The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal provides a list of crises that can impact businesses, including:
- Natural disasters
- Fire or flood
- Loss of power for any reason
- Failures of IT systems, security or supply chain
- Terrorist attacks
- Events that impact a company’s reputation
- An outbreak of disease
Right now, many businesses are dealing with a crisis related to the outbreak of COVID-19.
|Where can you get tips and guidelines for business disaster planning?|
|Ready.gov provides a variety of downloads and advice about disaster planning and crisis response, including a Business Emergency Preparedness Social Media Toolkit.The U.S. Small Business Administration offers some resources for disaster planning. SCORE.org provides a page of disaster preparedness and recovery resources, which was specifically updated to offer small business guidance during the coronavirus outbreak.The Business Development Bank of Canada provides a step-by-step guide to creating a disaster plan.|
Why You Shouldn’t Scale Back Content During a Crisis
Many businesses scale back on a number of things during a crisis, including content creation. Some reasons organizations might generate less content during and immediately after a crisis include:
- Perceptions that resources must go to efforts that are deemed more important than content
- Lack of resources to create content because of new demands on staff time or shortages in staffing
- Belief that some other messaging channels might be better than content
Obviously, at Crowd Content, we believe content is important. It’s more than our bread and butter — it’s kind of our passion. We want you to know content can play an important role in your business’s response to a crisis and understand how to use it.
What We Know From Public Relations About Crisis Management
Crisis management is an integral part of public relations. PR pros know that it’s critical to acknowledge issues, own them and be proactive in communicating with stakeholders about your response and how you’ll move forward.
Content marketing lets you do exactly this, leveraging various channels to get the word out while also delivering more short- and long-term value than with PR alone.
Content Has Enduring Value — for You and Your Customers
If you’re going to spend time and resources on communication during a crisis time, doesn’t it make sense to choose an option with long-term value?
Content provides relevant, helpful information to your target audience, and the information that’s helpful during a crisis doesn’t necessarily become obsolete once the crisis has passed. Thus, content has enduring value for the people you serve.
Content marketing also provides long-term value for your business, especially when compared to other channels. It can help you rank for search terms and drive organic traffic now and in the future, and you can revisit and update content later to fit more specific needs. Plus, you can continue to promote content and future updates via other channels like email and social media, driving even more traffic to important pages.
In other words, what you do in one particular crisis can become a building block to make things easier in a future situation.
Compare these advantages with the benefits you might get from paid advertising. Paid advertising tends to provide short-term returns; to ensure the word is widely spread and keep returns churning, you have to continuously pour effort and money into advertising. That’s not to say every business should shut down ads during a crisis and turn solely to content — in general, a well-balanced, integrated approach Is best.
Our advice – content first, and then promote it however you can to help you address the crisis appropriately. That definitely includes advertising your content.
Content Lets You Appropriately Fill an Authority Role
Content also lets you speak directly into need during a crisis. If you have an existing content program, chances are your audience sees you as an authority within your space (at least that’s the goal). In a crisis, they might crave your guidance.
At the very least, people want to know that the brands and businesses they care about and rely on are doing something to weather the storm. They also may need reassurance that you’re still there, ready to meet their needs, even if it’s in a modified way.
Responding to crisis and helping your clients navigate during that time can further build your authority, potentially helping you create foundations for the future.
Chances are you know more about space than your clients do – that’s why they hire you or use your services. Your insights in a crisis can be incredibly valuable to them.
Look for Opportunities to Provide Solutions Via Content
The best content marketing is never 100% about you and your business. It should be about what your customers need or want and how you can help. Some of the most effective components of a content marketing campaign are often those that provide value to the reader without demanding anything in return.
Consider, for example, our post on Tips for Working Remotely. The target audience it’s aimed at is the freelance writers that power our platform, but it offers valuable advice without demanding anything in return. It also helps position us as an authority — someone freelance writers and editors can turn to for guidance and work.
This type of content is important any time, but it becomes critical during a crisis. Look for opportunities to provide answers or support as people seek solutions. Some ways of finding these opportunities include:
- Paying attention to new trends in search terms, which indicate large numbers of people are trying to find information about something. A handy tool for checking this is Exploding Topics
- Following relevant and trending hashtags on social media, which can tell you what types of things people are talking about and interested in at the moment. Social listening tools like BuzzSumo can be a huge help here.
- Check out Google Trends to see what issues are trending at large – you may be able to tap into this
- Asking your existing customers or audience; send out an email or post on social inviting them to share their concerns and questions and look for topics that come up repeatedly.
- Spending time talking to existing clients to find out what their needs, questions or concerns are during the crisis; chances are that other customers are experiencing similar issues, so you can create content around those discussions and share them with others.
Types of Content You Can Leverage
The type of content you create and how you distribute it depends on the crisis you’re facing and the needs of both your business and your stakeholders/customers. Most of the time, digital channels are the best way to get content out in an efficient and timely manner, but some situations might require print distribution. For example, in the United States, certain types of data breaches must be communicated to impacted consumers in writing.
But generally, if you want to leverage content marketing during a crisis, here are three of the best channels to include in your efforts.
1. Email Content
Email content is a great way to communicate with existing customers or audiences during a time of crisis. In fact, unless you’re living under a digital rock, you probably received a dozen or more “Here’s our response to COVID-19” emails. Here are some reasons email is one of the first places companies turn when they’re dealing with a crisis or disaster.
- Email reaches to the person rather than waiting for them to come to you. It helps ensure people can get the message even if they didn’t yet realize there was an issue or need.
- You own your email list and can control who receives the message. With all other forms of content, you’re at the mercy of algorithms, social shares and search trends.
- Email feels more personal, which can help you connect with your audience during a crisis.
- Email is accessible via a wide number of devices and free services, which can make it easier to reach people when resources are generally lower during certain types of crises.
2. Social Media Content
Social is the first place many people turn when a crisis begins to unfold. Users flock to platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and even LinkedIn to find out information, double check information, see what their friends are saying and commiserate with others. But they also look to brands and industry leaders to set the tone or provide trusted information via these forums.
This is especially true if you’re dealing with a crisis that’s related mostly to your company, such as a PR issue or breach of security. You’re likely to see a spike in activity on your pages as people come to ask questions or troll. And if you don’t do the content marketing work to take control of the story, the trolls will be happy to do it for you.
3. Blog Content
Blog content can help you create a powerful, authoritative presence online, which is helpful whether or not a crisis is occurring. During a crisis, blog content lets you:
- Address certain concerns, questions or needs with in-depth content that provides answers and solutions
- Alleviate worries or fears with honest content that helps build increased trust with your audience
- Provide information in a variety of formats to meet the widest needs, including text, images and video
- Meet in-the-moment needs while creating something that can be used later for other marketing or content purposes
The Bottom Line on Content in a Crisis
Communication is critical. It’s a basic premise of business disaster planning and crisis management. And one of the most effective ways you can invest in communication is through content marketing. When the stakes are high, it’s often time to double down with this type of effort.