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communicate during a crisis

7 Tips for Communicating During a Crisis

AMA Baltimore
April 8, 2020 |
6 minute read

The past few weeks have tested us as marketers, communicators, and human beings. While it feels like the world has stopped, we still need to be in touch with our teams and our audiences.

How do you connect with your audience today and plan for the future when you aren’t sure what tomorrow will look like? 

We asked local marketing agencies to share their tips on how to communicate during a crisis and while planning for the future:

Communicate Strategically

It’s crucial that during these uncertain times we are maintaining open lines of communication with all of our audiences, including internal teams who are working remotely, and our external audiences, including customers, media and other key stakeholders. But everyone is in information overload right now. We must be strategic with what, how, and when we are communicating. Our inboxes are flooded with COVID-19 emails from every company we have ever done business with. Before hitting “send” on that next all employee email, or helpful customer letter, ask yourself if the message needs to be shared now, if this is the best way to share it and if this is the best medium for sharing that information. Consider alternative channels such as a virtual conference, mobile alerts, website updates or social media videos if you are trying to cut through the clutter. 

Ashlene Larson, Director of Public Relations & Social Media at planit

Be Real. Be Direct.

You need to be empathetic to whom you’re speaking to, but not lose sight of the fact that business can continue. If you have a solution that solves a problem for the customer then there’s no reason to hold back communication. People are in need of real help right now. Be real, be direct, and don’t ignore the reality of that customer’s current situation. Brands and businesses that understand how to communicate with empathy will not only retain customers when this crisis is over, but could potentially create an army of advocates eager to do their part to get the economy going. 

Andy Locke, Vice President, Managing Director at Response Labs

Get Personal

Focus on sales enablement, arming your sales team and the rest of the organization with the resources and content they need to represent your brand. Opt for 1 to 1 communication versus mass communication, decentralize what you’ve centralized, and enable a personal touch. This is such a unique moment in time that we simply need to show others we care, and work closely together (but apart) to find the best path forward. 

Jay Atcheson, SVP Marketing at R2integrated

Design a Value-Exchange

Most brands were hit by surprise and not truly prepared. The evidence now points to direct consumer relationships as the golden ticket. Now as we prepare for the future, Brands must advance their direct strategies — engage consumers to establish direct relationships through data. Design a value-exchange that incentivizes consumers to join programs, sign-up for experiences, and enable direct connections such that Brands have a direct way to talk to their most valued consumers and transact on those very same channels — that is: e-Commerce. M-commerce and S-commerce. 

Michael Kaushansky, President Havas Helia & Chief Data Officer at Havas Helia

Plan for Recovery

While it’s difficult for organizations to focus on anything but the most critical needs of their employees and customers during this time, marketers need to plan for rapid recovery in the months following the crisis. For many companies, the world will have changed – from employee count, to product and supply availability, to market share. We need to have a plan in place to adapt and hit the ground running as we emerge from this unprecedented time. 

Chuck Fitzgibbon, Executive Vice President at Weber Shandwick


Our marketing strategy was largely centered around supporting major thought leadership events and industry conferences, so our plans had to change pretty dramatically once those events started getting cancelled. That being said, we’ve had more opportunities to experiment than ever before. The challenge of reaching our growth goals without in-person events has challenged us to experiment with new media formats, new marketing channels, new partnerships, and new communications strategies. Whereas this shift in strategic direction may have been previously driven at the director level, involving our entire team in the creation of new campaign ideas, operating procedures, and feedback loops has been super motivating for us, and we’ve avoided losing any critical details in translation. I’ve also taken my cues from our leadership team, and continue to focus on being there for my team as people — and then as professionals. Simple things like kicking off every video call with a few minutes of non-work-related conversation, helping our “fun committee” plan virtual trivia nights and group fitness classes, and encouraging team members to actually take breaks throughout the day by changing their Slack status help us to be fully present for mission-critical work. Finally, because of our renewed focus on digital channels, we’re actively creating new ways to analyze the performance of our initiatives and optimize our integrated marketing approach. This test-and-learn philosophy, paired with strong buy-in from the team, is only going to make us stronger when we’re on the other side of this crisis.

Laura Scruggs, Director of Marketing at Mindgrub Technologies

Get Creative

Who can you count on in times of crisis? Creative marketing people! We’re typically never bored, and with many of us, we like to reinvent ourselves (and we like a challenge!). We see that companies that have kept long running traditional communication for too long and are now feeling the effects of the brave new digital world backdrop, but we’re ready for more. Teams should make a bigger effort to find fun ways to collaborate that’s personal as well as professional. Want to try that magic trick on an audience? Do it on your next Zoom call! Our teams have shown off their home lives in ways that would never have happened in the past,  and that learning and sharing has opened up a new world and tone for collaboration that really benefits our work and our clients. In the end, now that we are all in the same pandemic boat, this level setting allows for deeper relationship growth potential (it should for all of us). I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to all of our post-pandemic reunions. Excited to see how our ‘relationships 2.0’ will allow us to have more patience, better guidance, and produce stronger products, insights and outcomes. 

Debbie Bates-Schrott, CEO at Beyond Definition


AMA Baltimore

The American Marketing Association Baltimore Chapter (AMA Baltimore) is Maryland’s leading provider of networking, educational programming, and resources for marketing professionals. AMA Baltimore provides extensive opportunities for marketers to expand their networks, grow professionally and learn about current industry trends.
The American Marketing Association Baltimore Chapter (AMA Baltimore) is Maryland’s leading provider of networking, educational programming, and resources for marketing professionals. AMA Baltimore provides extensive opportunities for marketers to expand their networks, grow professionally and learn about current industry trends.


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