Quit lickin’ your fingers

Step 2 in Marketing During a Crisis: Review Your Messaging

Last month, we covered the first step in Marketing during a Crisis: evaluating your messaging (Listen) as we enter the Recovery phase. Missed it? Get caught up here.

Today, we’re moving to Step 2 of 5: Review. 

Let’s go.

Why do you need to Review your message during the Recovery period?

It’s easy to get stuck in your own head and not always be aware of what other people are thinking when it comes to your brand during normal times, much less during a crisis. 

A crisis changes the way people think about a lot of things – including the way they consume products and services.  Habits break. Needs change. Priorities shift. Your messaging serves as the connection to build, rebuild, or strengthen relationships possibly shaken during turbulent times. Taking the time to review your messaging post-crisis is critical to ensure what you are saying is in alignment with your current actions and is being perceived as intended by your target audience(s).

Let’s look at a few examples of a message shift during the COVID pandemic.

At the beginning of the pandemic when most of us were in some form of a stay-at-home order, smart brands took a moment to pause and pull back any messages of “business as usual” and focused on what was top of everyone’s mind: safety. 

Positive Changes:

Buffalo Wild Wings, for example, swapped their ads promoting the restaurant as a gathering place for sports for messages highlighting delivery services.  Message? It’s Safer at home.

Geico quickly removed an ad of a woman high-fiving a coworker after saving money.  Keeping it running would appear tone-deaf to the fact that a) no one was in the office and b) saving money on insurance was not top of mind for consumers. Plus high-fiving at that time? Ewwww.

Ford paused product-pushing and switched over to timely payment-relief ads featuring slogans like “Built for Right Now” and “Built to Lend a Hand.”

A Not-So-Great Messaging Move

KFC pulled a finger-lickin’-good (cringe) commercial.  Uh, hate to break it to ya KFC but promoting finger lickking during a world-wide pandemic of a highly contagious virus was not the brightest marketing move.  They caught a lot of finger-wagging as a result.

How did messages change?

Emails, social posts and other forms of communication were sent to let customers know how the business had changed operationally and how they were handling both customer and employee safety. There were no silly memes, or blatant pre-pandemic style product promotions (example: dine in vs curbside/delivery). Why? Because they would have come across as inappropriate and tone-deaf. 

“They [were] selling nothing,” said Jane Borden of Vanity Fair. “Walmart’s message: ‘Here for you.’ Facebook’s?: ‘We’re never lost if we can find each other.’ Uber: ‘Stay home for everyone who can’t.’ Actual products are nowhere to be seen.” 

As we write this blog, it’s been roughly 14 months since the pandemic kicked into high gear. Here in the United States, we have come out of the initial crisis mode and are entering the Recovery phase of Marketing During a Crisis. That means it’s time to review your brand’s messaging to evaluate your words against your action and the customer perception vs. their experiential reality.  As things begin to open up, it’s evident certain things will not return to the way they were – some of these changes are for the better.  

This review process shouldn’t take weeks to do. A few hours should give you plenty of insight to see if your communicated intent matches your actions. This step is imperative in maximizing connection between your brand and your customers to ensure a healthy, thriving recovery for your business or organization.

So, how do you review?


Clean your desk, clear your mind, and gather all the components of your messaging. This may include sales/customer service outreach emails, phone scripts, promotion emails, social media, website copy, advertisements, blogs, internal company communication, etc. Make a list of every touchpoint your company makes with both your internal team and your customers, vendors, etc. 

Evaluate sentiment & perception

Last month you took the time to talk with and listen to customers to get a sense of where they are at when it comes to the need and consumption of your products and services.  

Hopefully you took good notes. 

Compare those notes with feedback from customers immediately after the pandemic hit. What changed between the first months of the pandemic and today? Are your customers more confident, relaxed, and ready to move forward? Or, are they unsure of what lies ahead, and therefore cautious in committing to new products, services or projects? How do they feel your brand is positioned to help them get to where they want to be today? 

If your brand has a presence on social media, review what your customers and prospects are saying.  Are they supportive of your message and its intent? What about company reviews? Reviews are powerful in delivering insight on a company’s perception of how they are doing vs. your customers’ reality. When marketing during a crisis, your message plays a significant role in shaping a customer’s experience with your brand.

Look at some examples

Here are a few examples of how actions impact a customer’s perception toward a business:

“I really [owner’s] appreciate [the owner’s] dedication to keeping her customers safe, especially when her competition went the opposite way. Plus, the clothes are gorgeous and sustainable.” 

“Thank you for caring about our community!!! That is why I shop at your store

“Went shopping downtown today. Stopped by a new store, walked out due to staff not being masked.  Walked right by another for the same reason. [Store C] got my hard-earned money – mask signage, sanitizer available, and all staff properly masked.”

-Real shopper comments from an online forum

Then, examine your current external communications

Examine the communications, marketing and promotion material you are currently deploying and have slated for the next 30-60 days. Read through it all and note the message and tone/voice your company is sending out.  Does it:

  • Reflect the current situation/mindset of your brand?
  • Address how your customers/prospects are currently feeling?  (confident, bullish, ready to buy or hesitant, uneasy, holding off on purchases)
  • Meet people where they currently are to calm concerns, build trust and provide value? 

Make note of any discrepancies in messaging vs your desired reality. You will need this information for the next stage of Marketing During a Crisis. Taking the time to review the difference between what your customers are saying and what your brand is doing positions you for the next step in your communication strategy: Pivot and Plan

Try this “Review” step over the next month, and let us know if you have any questions along the way. What challenges or wins are you experiencing? In July, we’ll walk you through everything you need to do to Pivot and Plan.

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Blue Flamingo is a creative messaging, communications, and PR firm known for helping organizations stand out and get noticed.

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