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Telling Your Company’s Story Through Crisis

Storytelling is a device that has been used throughout time to help clarify messages, explain concepts, and inspire emotional responses.  Most stories describe the journey of a hero who experiences a challenge at the hands of a villain and finds a way, usually with the help of a guide, to come out triumphant on the other side.  The narrative of COVID-19 is no different.  In this case, the virus is the villain and there are challenges, heroes, and guides on our collective journey. 

What role are you playing?

During a crisis, when your own story seems to be crumbling in front of you, it is very tempting to play the part of the salesperson.  That mindset could damage your brand and your reputation.

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Approaching the situation from a place of panic usually means you focus on how you can interact with your clients to immediately put money in your bank account.  You send out promotions and try to sell.  By selling to someone who is struggling, you may appear to be opportunistic.  By pivoting from panicked to poised, you can position yourself as a compassionate leader with a way forward instead.

During COVID-19, your goal should be to step into the position of the guide.  A guide is a helpful expert who comes alongside the hero with a plan to take them from desperation to success.   While the role of the hero may sound ideal, in the eyes of your customers, they are the heroes of their own stories.   They have been experiencing disappointment, challenges, setbacks, and struggles.  They are desperately looking for a guide to help them solve their issues and lead them to victory. 

Playing the guide in the story of your customers in a time of crisis means providing relevant, helpful information.  By being a good friend in times of trouble, you can build strong relationships with your audience that may turn into sales after everyone is back on their feet.  That is how to weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side.

To tell your story from the position of the guide, you need to clarify, inspire, and connect.

Get Clear on Your Customers’ Current Problems and How You Will Solve Them

Clarity is the foundation of all good storytelling.  Before engaging in the current crisis story, you need to get clear on what your current customer’s needs are and how you can add value to their lives.

What your customers needed before the crisis is different than what they need now.  As your customers’ needs change, you should change to meet them.  As you are handling a lot of customer issues, it can be a little bit overwhelming to know what all of their problems are because you are so far in the weeds.  Get clarity by making a list of all of the customer problems and circumstances that you've been dealing with. Then, pull out three to four overarching themes and look to see how you can solve them or help relieve some of the pressure they may be feeling. 

For example, if you are a caterer, you may realize that your customers have three main problems: 1) They are stuck at home and don’t know how to cook 2) They feel like they should be able to eat high-quality food even during the pandemic 3) They are stressed out with kids at home and cooking just feels like one more added pressure.  Coming from a place of clarity, you decide to start teaching virtual cooking classes online, open up a meal delivery service that has kid-friendly options, and include kid activities and self-care gifts for parents in each delivery.  By focusing on current needs rather than the status quo, you will shine in the eyes of your customers and may even be able to test additional revenue streams.

Give Your Customers Hope and Inspiration

Once you get clear, it is time to engage your customers from a place of empathy and authority.  Show them you can relate to their struggles and that you have the experience and knowledge to provide solutions.  Create content on social media, blogs, podcasts, or your website that shows your ideal customers that you have a plan to help them through a transformation. Your goal is to be the support they need to move from an unwanted state to a more positive one.

For example, if your ideal customer is a couple who had to postpone their wedding, they are most likely feeling disappointed.  How can you engage and uplift them to help them to transform from disappointed to hopeful? 

Here are some ideas: Send relevant planning tips via email, mail handwritten cards or encouragement gifts, or create an eBook about the top 10 things to do with your partner when your wedding has been postponed because of COVID-19.   Each piece of content that you create should be designed to get them further along in their transformation journey.   Use information to inspire and equip your audience to solve their pain points.

Create Strong Connections by Being Trustworthy

A guide and a hero's relationship is only as strong as the bond of trust that connects them.  Now more than ever, you need to show that you are trustworthy.  Not only does your information need to be accurate, but you need to be consistently dedicated to the success of your customers.  Now is the time to build out the top and middle of your marketing funnel by focusing on developing “know, like, and trust” with your audience. 

Customers only buy from who they know, like and trust, and you have the opportunity to build those relationships using content that comes from the perspective of the guide.  Customers will get to know you when you show up consistently with a clear message and a cohesive brand image.  They will like you because they feel like you understand their struggles and that you project confidence and positivity.  Your audience will begin to trust you when you prove that you have a good track record, you walk the walk, and you exercise good judgment.

As you are producing consistent content that is clear, helpful, and engaging, make sure that you create opportunities to deepen the relationship with your audience.  Include calls-to-action that encourage micro conversions.  A micro conversion might be something like following you on Instagram, downloading a guide in exchange for an email address, or taking a quiz.  That way, you are able to continue the relationship even after the crisis is over.

A planner who is doubling-down on trust might start producing five minute daily videos for couples with postponed weddings. A good idea would be to send the videos out via the planner’s email list and post them on social media.   Topics could include fun things to do with your fiancé in quarantine, wedding planning from home tips, budgeting for a new date tips, and mindset mantras.  Each video might encourage a micro-conversion like asking for a response to a question, requesting to see pictures from a recent activity, or signing up for an online challenge. Showing up daily with applicable solutions will prove to your audience that you are truly there for them.

Be remembered in our collective COVID-19 story as the engaged, helpful guide in the event industry.  Get clear, inspire your audience, and make the connection. 

Aleya Harris

Owner, Flourish Marketing

Aleya Harris, an award-winning marketer and former chef and catering company owner, is the Owner of Flourish Marketing, an agency that provides marketing education, strategy, and tools to help wedding, catering, and event professionals get and keep a consistent stream of clients.   Aleya is a StoryBrand Certified Guide and she uses that narrative-based framework to develop clear, engaging, and highly converting marketing assets, like websites and social media solutions, for her clients.  Aleya is the current Marketing Committee Chair for NACE and a top speaker at conferences...