Here’s the third article in my Lessons Learned series. There’s an introduction and back story¬†article,¬†then the article describing our clear and constant communications, and this one covering the messaging, and lastly I’ll cover what we learned about working with reduced resources.

What do members need to hear during a crisis?

While we all strive to be where our target audience is, to match our marketing messages to meet their current situations, this awareness really kicked in to hyper-drive during our crisis. (“Our crisis” was a series of deadly tornadoes on April 27, 2011. The impacts were many – our huge challenge was the lack of electricity for about five days.)

Some of us were more isolated than others, so it was more difficult to get a good grasp on what most of our members were needing.

This was in the infancy of social media, (only about half of adults were using social media at that time according to Pew Research), so we were relying on our call center, interactions with our neighbors, even just the word on the street, to help inform our messaging plan.

But you know, it really all came down to helping our members find the best options for getting the cash and other financial services they needed.

We did a lot of signs in the branch parking lots announcing hours (or closing) but then offering the closest open branch on that same sign. The same for ATMs – if one wasn’t available due to the lack of electricity in the immediate area, the sign would let them know of other options. And as the power board was able to build up the transmission towers, electricity would become available in spurts and chunks. Our messaging needed to match that dynamic situation.

We also used the website to mirror these messages, putting a hold on any marketing messages the website was normally used for. Which is a great tip for all communication channels – put a hold on all marketing messages. The public is consumed with the crisis. They’re scrambling for information about their loved ones, available recovery resources, what public and government services are available (or not). They do not want to see tone-deaf promotions pushing product.

In the first few days of the current pandemic chaos, I would see these random social media posts from retailers, financial brands, and businesses who were likely still letting their scheduled postings run. It was a bad look.

Good communicators are able to listen, get a feel for the temperature of the room so to speak, then respond accordingly. This ability is even more important in a time of crisis, and to do so quickly.

We certainly had our moments of falling short. It was very difficult to update the signs at the branches and ATMs. There were times we would get conflicting messages from leadership. Or a decision would be made, but then the situation itself would change, requiring a reversal of that decision. We had lots of corrections and updates. But keep the end goal in mind, keep your members in mind, and you’ll be doing the most good possible.

Takeaway Tips

  • Immediately put a hold on all scheduled, automated social posts.
  • Pull any marketing promotions not related to the immediate situation (which is likely ALL marketing promotions).
  • Messaging priority should be answering the members’ concerns for cash access and other logistical needs.
  • Update information as soon as possible whenever those items change.
  • As the dust settles, move into educations messaging – members will likely have their financial situation impacted, find ways to reassure and educate.
  • Hang in there! This will be hard, but you will shine in this moment of uncertainty!

If you have specific questions, challenges, concerns, please let me know (256-714-6596) or learnmore@jbcommunicationsgroup.com. I’ll do what I can to lighten your load, whether it’s our services or those from another provider.