Part 3 of What Companies Should Do During a Media Crisis: Communicating to your Impacted Customers and Supporters

The hardest and most important communications you have to handle during a crisis is to set the right tone and be responsive when sharing information to your supporters and any impacted customers.

Your customers are the ones who ultimately hold your company’s destiny in their hands.  If you want to weather the storm, the easiest way is to protect and save what you already have secured.

Assuming you’ve already read through Part 1 of this series and already have your simplified and clarified message finalized, let’s discuss the next section of this four-part series.  How to communicate with impacted customers and your supporters during a crisis.  

Tips for talking to impacted customers:

Be Honest and Be Direct.  People will be upset- don’t ignore or belittle that anger.  Be humble and empathetic in your wording, but also tell customers what to do or what to expect.  Provide usable information in the first few sentences, don’t bury the detail halfway through your statement.  Someone who’s stressed by your company shouldn’t have to search a long document to find updates or answers.

Provide Expectations and Instructions, Even When You Don’t Know the Answer. Even if you don’t yet have all the answers, acknowledge the issue and explain that you’re working on an answer. A simple statement on your website and SM channels can help, such as:  We are aware of the issue and are working on a solution.  We will provide an update with additional information at 3pm today, or earlier if possible.

Move the Issue Off Your Main Page.  If you’ll need to communicate lots of information over time, or will be giving lots of updates over several days, create a secondary website or social media page to separate angry customers from unknowing or unimpacted customers.

Respond to Social Media Posts.  Angry customers will make lots of posts on your social media pages. Create a series of short responses that can be used. One response may simply be that you’re working on a resolution to the issue and that the company will provide an update as soon as it can.  Another might be to direct impacted customers to another page for more information, updates and how the company plans to help impacted customers. Ultimately, people want to be acknowledged, and others will see you responded.

Accept that media is a conduit to talk to upset customers.  Upset customers during a crisis will be watching media to see how you respond to the crisis.  Therefore, your response needs to have them in mind.  If customers need to do something as a result of the crisis, tell the media what customers should do and use them to help give instructions.  I’ll get more in to talking to the media in Part 4 of this series.

For the most part, people can accept that mistakes occur, and that not everything is in our control.  Customers just want to know you’re genuine in your desire to fix the problem and truly do apologize and accept responsibility when it’s expected.  If you handle the crisis well, and your customers are content with how you handled everything, they may become even more loyal to you and your brand, knowing that they can count on you to do what’s right even when it’s not easy.

-written by Josh Weiss