A Marketing & Public Relations Tip Sheet for Uncertain Times


Edited by Lorna Dietz
Radiant View Communications
“an influencer of ideas and change”

How do businesses and organizations remain sensitive about their customers, prospects, and other stakeholders during uncertain times? During my research, I reviewed and analyzed the words of wisdom that marketing and public relations experts shared with their peers, especially after lessons learned from their experiences with Desert Storm and 9-11. I found common themes that I felt would benefit many readers.

This is a timely tip sheet to consider as we seek normalcy in our daily lives, work with people who cannot make decisions about doing business with us, maintain economic prosperity, handle situations that we can control, and keep fostering thoughts of peace.

YOUR MIND-SET AND ATTITUDE: While your prospects and customers might seem paralyzed by the current crisis, your role is to make them feel like a hero in their own business and endeavors. This is the time your clients really need you as the solution to their problems. Your customers are making decisions based on their priorities and budgets. The better your marketing offer is — loaded with having a real impact on their return on investment or having real business-critical value — the higher up you are in their A-list. Your organization is a solid foundation they can rely on that delivers products and services consistently, using well-planned programs and strategies in marketing and public relations. It’s “back to basics” for your business as you understand the needs of the right audience for your products and services, use the right vehicle to reach them, validate that you offer value, and reassure them that you will be around for a long, long time. If your industry is also going through an upheaval, it makes sense to highlight your on-going, consistent, and stolid principles and mission in doing business with them.

YOUR MESSAGE: Don’t send messages that overtly seem like a commercial during a time of international crisis. This is also not the time to make your message blatantly patriotic unless you are in the flag manufacturing business. Analyze your marketing and public relations plans to check if they contain any inflammatory, insensitive words or strategies that can be misinterpreted by your customer. Revisit the words that you use. Be honest and truthful. Let your product confidently sell itself instead of being openly cocky. Just state the facts, benefits, and information without using an excitable, unfocused tone. Bottom-line: Tact and diplomacy are valuable tools to use.

CLIENT ACQUISITION: During times of crisis, it might be more costly to get customers. You might expect fewer sales for the short-term because clients are too distracted with their newspaper, television, radio, e-mail, or internet updates. Track the responses of your current marketing campaign during and after the crisis. Do remember that today, a new client who seeks you out is much more important to you. Value them highly.

ON-LINE MARKETING: You still need to use all mediums of media. If you use on-line and off-line (traditional media) forms for your marketing campaign, remember that online marketing is more responsive “by the minute” compared to daily and weekly print publications. If you have a print publication with a website, this is the time to focus on the timeliness of your breaking news on the internet and reinvent your marketing and advertising programs to drive traffic to your sites.

ADVERTISING AND PROMOTIONS: Unless your business has the appropriate products or services and expertise that can handle crisis issues, don’t abuse your social and political responsibilities with your brand recognition. You could target your advertising with helpful messages to attract prospects that have been affected by the economic crisis. For example, you could work with individuals who have recently been laid off by giving a discount on your resume-writing services.

ADVERTISING ON THE RADIO AND E-MAIL NEWSLETTERS: Cost-effective, timely, and immediately accessible. Common sense, isn’t it?

TELEMARKETING: Are you kidding? Do think carefully about the appropriateness of your timing and your message. Your prospects or clients might be keeping the telephone lines clear for emergencies. This is not the time to launch promotional offers. Be more personalized in your approach. Let them know about any special services that you are offering that might make life easier or less stressful.

WRITING NEWS DURING THESE TIMES OF INDECISION: Before you write your special supplements about a war, remember that every other newsletter that speaks to your audience is probably thinking the same way that you do. Time your news carefully. Publish because it makes sense to do so. Sometimes, your readers might not pay attention to your regularly scheduled news stories. Find ways to make your statements distinctively different yet befitting your position in the marketplace.

IF YOUR ORGANIZATION HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH WAR EFFORTS: This is the time to make sure that your staff knows where to direct all media inquiries regarding your connection to war efforts. Listen to everything that your customers or critics have to say while staying sensitive to the issues. Be open to all questions. Explain in complete sentences. Use press releases to promote your products and services. Your website needs to have more detailed information that is helpful to your clients. There’s no sure-fire formula for people understanding your position but your openness and sincerity are your key players.

THE CONCLUSION: Treat everyone with dignity. Be the ultimate advisor without bias. Don’t give in to hype. And — take care of all your relationships.

© Lorna Dietz, March 2003.






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