Branding, Strategy, PR

How should my brand speak during a crisis?

Watch your tone, how we speak in times of crisis will define our brands long-term.

Do you know what defines your brand’s tone of voice? If not, then it’s likely you don’t have the right one. You should have a sense of what feels like ‘you’ - how you would and wouldn’t communicate and what personality your brand has. Tone of voice is not just about what you say, but how you say it. If one thing’s for sure, the current global health crisis will separate those businesses with an understanding of how to communicate from those without.

Consumers, like everyone, are heightened, possibly stressed and dealing with many unknowns. They may stick with brands they know and use because there’s comfort in familiarity, but switching to an online-only world overnight means people are working, thinking and living differently and in doing so, they’re discovering new brands, products and services to help them do that. This is an opportunity for businesses to communicate to new, waiting audiences, but how and when has never been more important.

Don’t cheapen your brand in fear

It can be tempting to want to stand out from the crowd and shout louder when things feel a bit tough, but a strong, consistent tone of voice should help you cut through the noise without the need for sensationalist headlines. Instead of buying into panic and fear, think about what you want to hear as a consumer in difficult times; you want assurances, reliability, support. Be what you’d hope for in a time like this. If your brand has something genuinely of interest to people, tell them why, make it clear what your role is in supporting them. That likely means adopting a warm, yet professional tone. However, if you’re always fun-loving and a bit tongue in cheek, you can still use that, consistency is good, but do so mindfully. The key here is not to change, your tone should remain recognisable and inherently ‘you’ and if you’ve worked on your tone of voice previously, it will feel natural to adapt to whatever content or platform.

Analogue to digital

While it’s pretty much commonplace to operate digitally nowadays, the lockdown of many traditional retailers, those relying on footfall for example, such as bakers, butchers and greengrocers, the time might be now to diversify - especially as food is one of the things we all need and now more than ever, delivery services are in demand. So how do you take your offline offering online, if you’ve never had to think about tone of voice? You’ve been doing it all along - it’s in your values as a business, the way you choose to speak to customers, the way you build relationships with them. If your in-store product list is full of puns and humour, you can use that online. One of the best things you can do in determining your tone is to make a few simple dos and don’ts that you’re comfortable with. Ask yourself questions about how you want to be perceived and try and answer the following questions:

  • If your brand was a person, how would they talk?
  • How old would they be?
  • What is important to them?
  • What are their values?

Having this sense of what kind of brand you are and want to be is important, because we will all remember the ones who tried to help, provide essential support and services, who offered guidance or solutions. Be remembered for your considered communications and remember that considered doesn’t mean lacking clout!

Need some help with your tone of voice or wider brand identity?

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Post by

Team Amy K


Head of Brand & Content

Amy joined in 2014 to set up our Content department. She now heads up a growing Brand and Content team, utilising over 13 years’ experience to deliver brand awareness through targeted, multi-channel copy. As well as engaging content for websites and blogs, Amy delivers PR strategies and tone of voice exploration, helping clients to communicate the purpose and values of their brand with maximum impact.

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