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Communicating with Your Customers During a Crisis

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In these uncertain times, you may be unsure about how to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and communicate with your customers without appearing insensitive or tone-deaf. While it can be tempting to go dark, it is important to show your customers that you are out there. Keeping your audience and their needs in mind is essential, and while each organization’s needs are different, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind and some examples of those doing it well.

SOCIAL MEDIA RECOMMENDATIONS

DIRECT TO OFFICIALS

Let the experts address official COVID-19 information. When public health is at risk, it is important to leave all health and safety advice to the authorities. Ensure you are redirecting to official resources. Travel Alberta has shared creative on our social channels, and we would encourage you to share it on your channels to help spread the message.

Travel Alberta

Destination Canada

Travel Alberta Instagram

ADDRESS THE SITUATION

It is not business as usual. Make an acknowledgement of the current situation using authentic and empathetic language. Be sensitive; avoid sarcasm and humour. It is okay to speak about COVID-19 and address the crisis in a genuine and authentic way.

Subaru: Heartfelt Thanks

South Africa

South Africa Tourism

REVIEW CONTENT REGULARLY

Watch government updates and pivot when necessary. When the speed of change is lightning fast, it is best practice not to pre-schedule content and to review everything going out to ensure your message is appropriate in the moment. In organic channels, this includes reviewing recent posts for relevancy knowing organic posts can appear in audience feeds for a couple of days.

Cilantro and Chive (March 19 & March 22)

Tourism Vancouver Island

Tourism Vancouver Island

BE THOUGHTFUL AND HELPFUL

Do not worry about highly produced content. Be thoughtful about your messaging and tone. If you have something helpful or important to say, your words are what count in these times.

Glenbow Museum

Explore Edmonton

Explore Edmonton

RESPOND TO COMMENTS

Monitor your social media and other listing pages where people might reach out with questions. This is an opportunity for 1:1 communication to build a relationship with your customers.

Tres Carnales Taqueria

Establishment Brewing Co.

Tres Carnales Taqueria

AVOID SALES FOCUSED MESSAGING

You have worked hard to build up your customer database and followers. Now is a good time to nurture that community and provide useful and interesting content that keeps you top of mind. Whether you are sharing trivia on Instagram Stories, creating positive posts with inspirational quotes or sharing a playlist, people who are looking for a distraction from this uncertainty will appreciate the break.

Be sure to focus on what your customers are wanting. They may not be purchasing right now, so consider providing valuable content and good news stories rather than call-to-action and sales focused messaging.

DoubleTree by Hilton

Calgary Folk Music Festival

Double Tree Hilton

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY MATTERS

Consumers will be watching for brands they can trust and social responsibility through this crisis will evoke brand loyalty. When travel starts back up again, the businesses that maintain trust with their customers will come out ahead.

Strathcona Spirits

Malcolm Hotel

Strathcona Spirits

SHOWCASE LOCAL IN YOUR CONTENT

Some people don’t know who or what makes a small, locally owned business. Who is behind the company and how did you come to be? What makes you special? Who are some of your suppliers that you can feature? Make sure people know that you are in this with the rest of us Albertans.

Take advantage of #hashtag campaigns in your area. Participate in conversations with other like-minded local brands. Share their content and help spread support for local businesses. 

#RedDeerStrong

#yeglocal

#loveyyc

showcase local

CONNECT THE DOTS

One of the things that will help a small business aside from conversion, is engagement by customers on their social media channels. Creating content that is sharable and helpful, and encouraging people to comment, follow, like and provide reviews will help both in the short and long-term in growing your followers and customer base.

Try engaging with your customers and other small businesses on social media. It can help to create a meaningful connection and brand loyalty down the road. Many small businesses are partnering up with others and creating gift boxes, contesting and awareness campaigns. This is a great way to gain followers, drive some revenue and support local in your own community.

Village Brewery

Edmonton Made

Village Brewery

WEB RECOMMENDATIONS

Create a dedicated space on your homepage for a clear and concise COVID-19 update as it relates to your business. (Temporary closure, limited services, etc). Ensure the information is at the top of the webpage, ideally in a dedicated banner

Review and update all information regarding business hours on your social media platforms and through Google My Business. These are often the first sources of truth for customers, even before your website.

Royal Alberta Museum

Made by Marcus

Ensure all messaging and visual elements align the current advice of health authorities. For example, photos depicting groups of people close together aren’t appropriate.    

CF Chinook Centre

Rostizado

Royal Alberta museum example

E-NEWSLETTER RECOMMENDATIONS

Avoid overt sales pushes and focus on creating thoughtful, engaging content that shows your audience you care. For example, highlight team members who are working hard during this uncertain time, create how-to videos / articles, create playlists or promote local businesses that remain open and have adjusted their service offerings.

Create a consistent schedule for your newsletter that does not bombard customers but keeps your business on their radar. Keep a close eye on your unsubscribe rate. If it is increasing you may be sending your e-newsletter too frequently. Be empathetic to how your audience has changed their information absorption habits during this crisis.

Increase awareness of your e-newsletter and its content through social media channels. The Calgary Expo is promoting its newsletter on Instagram following the postponement of the event.

Juniper Hotel email example

We have also compiled this easy checklist to ensure your social media, web and e-newsletter platforms are up-to-date and will help you deliver the best messaging for your businesses. 

STAY CONNECTED

Travel Alberta is here for you with Connections LIVE, a weekly webinar series focused to help you navigate the issues resulting from COVID-19. The first session will take place Thursday April 16 at 10 a.m. and the topic will build on the tips in this story: communicating with your customers during a crisis.

We will continue to develop tools and resources to help you manage this situation and look to you to help us identify some of the issues you are facing for future resource materials. Please contact your Experience Development Manager if you have any specific resource needs.