How A Communications Audit Can Save You in a Crisis

Apr 24, 2020 | Agency Blog, Branding, Copywriting, Digital Media, Events, What Happens After | 0 comments

Surviving COVID-19 as a business

or organization is proving to be a marathon, not a sprint. Whether your organization is a B2B, B2C or nonprofit, we hope you’ve made time to review your external and internal communications. 

If you haven’t, or don’t know where to start, it’s not too late to do a communications audit. And even if you did one in March, it’s probably worth another review. 

Web Chat Audio: Communications Audit

by Vela Agency | #WhatHappensAfter

A communications audit can help you confirm that your messages are on target today. But just as important, a thorough review can also help improve your communications strategy when it’s time to move forward.

To find out what you should be looking for, we asked the experts on the Vela team. Here are their suggestions: Digital Media, Events, Out-of-Home & Media Plans, Phones, Public & Media Relations, SMS & MMS, Social Media, and Website.

Digital Media

The key to having a successful digital content strategy

– now and always – is understanding the needs of your audiences and customers. Over the past several months, most marketers (should) have found themselves customizing their messaging to convey a tone that is empathetic and sensitive to their customers’ individual challenges. And don’t forget about your automated content. Go back and review any messages you’ve pre-set for distribution to ensure they are tuned-in, not tone-deaf.

Now is also a good time to make sure you are gathering and analyzing data on the keywords, messages, trends and topics that are of interest to these groups on an ongoing basis, whether you use a program like Google Analytics or even survey data. Use these insights to help you craft relevant, targeted content to engage your audience and push through the noise of today’s cluttered media landscape. In addition to topics, research which media channels are being used by your audiences to increase the visibility of your content.  

Once you’re armed with this data, create a detailed content calendar that outlines topic, tone, category, media type, the channels you plan to use, and when and how you plan to publish each piece. At the very least, plan out several months, but you may even prefer to plan up to a year in advance as long as you’re willing to be nimble and adjust to suit your current environment. – Gail Vadia, Vela’s digital content manager 

EVENTS

Trade shows, networking nights, festivals, concerts,

any gathering with more than 250, 100, 50, 10, 5, were one of the first things to be affected by COVID-19. Because being with others is an innate part of human nature, I’d argue that this has been one of the toughest avenues (of marketing) to navigate.  

 

Most of us realize that a virtual event may be a substitution, but it is not a long-term solution. Finding a new path is tricky because no one has a crystal ball. Gatherings of large groups are likely not going to be on the table for a while. So what do you do in the meantime? You do a communications audit that covers these five things. 

  1. Accept that things are changing on a daily basis and you have to make the best decision you can based on the knowledge you have at hand, along with a healthy dose of reality.  
  2. PROACTIVELY communicate with your attendees. Even if you don’t know, it’s okay to say that right now. If your event is happening in 2020, communicate about it. Do not keep people in the dark. If people are messaging you asking what your plans are, you’ve waited too long. 
  3. Be honest and transparent in your planning and cancellations and postponements. 
  4. Bite the bullet and offer full refunds back immediately.  
  5. If you insist on planning events “business as normal” because you hope things will be back in a few months, then now more so than ever you need to plan with contingencies in mind and pay extra attention to your crisis communication plans.

Laura Beth Young, Vela’s event and logistics manager 

Out-of-Home (OOH) and Media Plans

Check your media plans and their messaging.

Make sure it’s aligned with the current situation. For OOH in particular, this must be assessed. You might think, if people are not out of home, why advertise on out-of-home mediums such as billboards? Well, not everyone is working from home and not all businesses are shut down. If your business aligns with a demographic that is still going to work, you have a great opportunity to give them very targeted messaging. In my opinion, Novant Health has done a fantastic job by partnering with local OOH companies to run spots telling people to help health care workers by staying home.

If your message is advertising an event that’s been canceled, you should take it down. The excellent thing about digital OOH boards is that you can change the messaging almost immediately. 

Finally, don’t forget to have an honest conversation with your OOH rep and ask how they’ll work with you during this time. I cannot speak highly enough of the people at Indigo River Outdoor, Lamar Advertising and Adams Outdoor Advertising. They’ve all been very willing to work with us as we all find our way through things.

Laura Beth Young, Vela’s event and logistics manager 

PHONES

Most businesses still offer a phone number

for customers and prospects to reach out for any support. Call that support number now and go through the system as a customer might. Listen for messaging that isn’t current and make sure that your team has updated their outgoing voicemail messages to represent their availability. You may have asked your team to forward their direct lines to their mobile phones, or some other number. Try calling them using the same method that a client would and make sure you can get connected. No one wants to return from the office after quarantine and find out that they have 31 missed calls from a client. 

Speaking of voicemails, make sure your team knows that now more than ever keeping up with regular communication is of the utmost importance. Make sure people are checking messages and returning calls promptly. It may be appropriate for your team to change their outgoing message to indicate to customers and partners preferred methods or phone numbers to be reached. The most important thing is making sure that people can connect.

– Christina Hussey, Vela’s vice president for digital media 

GO TO:
DIGITAL MEDIA

EVENTS

OUT-OF-HOME / MEDIA PLANS

PHONES

PUBLIC RELATIONS/MEDIA RELATIONS

SMS/MMS

SOCIAL MEDIA

WEBSITE

Public relations / media relations

People use these terms interchangeably

but they’re not the same thing. (That’s a topic for a different article.) For the purpose of getting your news out to the media, be prepared to hit pause. It doesn’t matter what you had on your planning schedule or that you had a big press event planned for next week. All that needs to go on hold for now.  

 

The exception is if your organization is in the medical or emergency services fields and your announcement is somehow related to COVID-19. And I mean TRULY related to COVID-19, not some tangential, trying-to-get-coverage kind of connection. Reporters and the public will see through that, and you don’t want to seem like an opportunist.  

 

Finally, don’t try to tie your news to a giving-back initiative unless you honestly don’t care if you get any press coverage. If that’s the case, your gift is coming from the right place. And you’ll feel good about your efforts whether you get any media response or not.

– Kristin Eckart, Vela’s copywriter and public relations specialist
 

SMS and MMS

If you’re on the kind of marketing team that pushes promotions and campaigns

through text messaging, then you may need to run through each of the scheduled broadcast messages and campaigns you have planned. You need to make sure that they are still relevant and sensitive to the times. You certainly don’t want to send out a post telling people to take advantage of a BOGO offer on toilet paper if you don’t have any on the shelves.  

 

Once you read through all your pre-existing plans, it’s time to figure out how to use this communication channel to support your subscribers. This form of messaging involves a lot of trust; your subscribers are giving you permission to talk to them in the same channel they talk to their parents, kids and friends. In general, you’ll want to rethink these kinds of messages: updates about hours of operation, inspirational messages “just because,” and requests to follow your social media. And don’t send messages too frequently (likely no more than once a week.)

Christina Hussey, Vela’s vice president for digital media 

Social Media

 You need to review every platform

and check all your messaging, including things that you’ve scheduled out a month (or further). You’re looking for relevancy, appropriateness and accuracy, especially for things like events that may not be happening anymore.  

 

But your communications audit isn’t over yet. In case you’ve missed it, social media has become the premier entertainment platform. Now is a great time to evaluate who your audience is and how to expand it. This also goes for your audiences on different platforms. Which are your lowest performing platforms and which are your highest? If engagement has been teetering, maybe now is the time to research the interests of your people (Google Analytics will work GREAT for this.) Now, with everyone in the spotlight, is a great time to get a little more glimmer or shine brightly. Just don’t let your social die in front of a crowd.

Chrystal Sills, Vela’s digital communications specialist.

GO TO:
DIGITAL MEDIA

EVENTS

OUT-OF-HOME / MEDIA PLANS

PHONES

PUBLIC RELATIONS/MEDIA RELATIONS

SMS/MMS

SOCIAL MEDIA

WEBSITE

WEBSITE

If you haven’t already,

be sure to add a call-to-action on your home page that either expands or links to a statement about how your business is operating currently. Be sure you revisit this statement weekly and update it as needed. It’s likely your hours of operation, cleaning procedures, staffing plans and other daily business operations may change.  

 

When you update the statement, make sure you include a tag at the beginning that says “UPDATED” and include the date. Here are a few things to consider including: 

  • Hours of operation 
  • Best methods to communicate 
  • Expected response times 
  • Provisions made for customer and team member safety 
  • Any additional products or services you’re providing  
  • Any products or services you are having to suspend until further notice 

 

Additionally, if your website has a live chat feature, or a chat bot activated, review the messaging for this tool to make sure it matches your most up to date COVID-19 statement. Be sure to share this info with your chatbot team and give them an opportunity to ask questions so they can represent your company well when chatting with customers and prospects. 

 

Finally, if your website has an FAQs area, consider adding a section to address COVID-19 questions. When doing this, check in with your customer service team and see if they’ve been getting the same kinds of questions from clients and prospects. You may consider adding the answers to those questions on your coronavirus statement if it seems relevant.

Christina Hussey, Vela’s vice president for digital media

That’s a long list,

and you can apply the pieces that fit your organization. But please, make the time to do a communications audit. We care about our business partners, and we want to make sure you have the tools to get through this difficult time and #WhatHappensAfter. Next week, we’ll be back with a new topic: Embrace Your ‘New’ Customer.

Get your hands on the Vela Post-COVID Checklist

1 Comment

  1. Sally Hooper

    Great content, good things to be mindful of. Looking forward to the seminar on the subject. Thanks for being a great partner, Vela!

    Reply

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