I’ve been getting a lot of questions about messaging during a crisis. It can be hard to know what to say.
You don’t want to come off saying something insensitive but at the same time, you know you have to keep showing up online for your handmade business, so you have to figure out something to say.
Well, I’ve got you covered.
Hi! I’m Mei Pak, and I help makers, artists and designers create a consistent income selling their handmade products online. Today, I’m going to talk about three key strategies you can use to ensure your messaging is on point.
Don't Pretend Like It's Not Happening
Covid-19 is a crisis like we’ve never seen before both in terms of its worldwide reach and duration.
The first thing is, it’s absolutely important that you don’t stick your head in the sand and pretend like it’s not happening.
We’ve had other crises before. Maybe there was a natural disaster a few states away from you, and you just kinda ignored it. It wasn’t in your backyard, and that’s fine.
Chances are, if you have a nation-wide audience, the hurricane or whatever the crisis happened to be, wasn’t on people’s minds for more than a day, and so your business-as-usual-approach worked.
At the time.
But this is not a temporary situation and everyone in the world is affected. You can’t just wait this out. You can’t pretend it isn’t happening.
And at a bare minimum, you owe it to your customers to keep them up to date about your business. Your customers are probably wondering:
- Are you still shipping, or is your shop closed?
- Are there delays?
- Are you out of stock on certain items?
This information is just basic customer service.
I’m going to talk about how to message authentically, next, but during this time, it’s important to go through any scheduled posts and emails that you have automated and remove any messaging that’s no longer relevant or may be offensive.
For example, if you sell fancy dresses, it’s probably a wise idea to remove any references to a party or large gathering. That sort of thing.
I’ve seen how this affects even paid ads. For my paid ads for both my handmade shops, my jewelry shop Tiny Hands and my new print on demand art business, our ads are the same ads from before the pandemic, so we don’t have any special messaging that specifically called out Covid-19. Those ads are doing better than ever.
On the other hand, I’ve had ads for Creative Hive that I noticed were starting to get really expensive and weren’t converting as well. I redid a bunch of them to account for more relevant copy and things are working normally again.
If you have any content that didn’t even mention that you are aware of what’s happening, you can run the risk of it being tone deaf.
Now, I’m not saying every single message you put out there needs to be calling attention to tough times, recession, or a pandemic because that would just get old pretty quickly. But it is a good idea to just do a quick review of the content you’ve either got scheduled or plan to put out there and tweak your messaging accordingly.
I want to talk about authenticity in a pandemic like this. It’s a totally new situation for online businesses and there isn’t a set playbook. Right now, people are wanting honesty and to connect with others.
Things are wacky.
No one expects business-as-usual. In fact, I’ve found people have been super understanding.
Your audience wants to hear about what you’re doing. Not in a show a picture of the dog puking on the floor kind of way, but in a my supplies didn’t arrive so I’m doing needlepoint for fun instead kind of way.
You see the difference there, right?
I mean, things can suck. Maybe your kids are still home and you have less than 15 minutes to breathe. That’s fine to say.
Grab a cup of coffee, snap a selfie of yourself during your sacred quarter of an hour, and post with a note about the craziness you’re going through!
People will definitely relate to that. You’re not the only person in the world experiencing that and you’re making people feel like they’re not alone because you’re brave enough to put yourself out there.
I’ve found being a business owner is really about being a leader.
You don’t want to let your message spiral into negativity. You are, after all, still a business whether or not you’re currently operating and should aim to portray your company in a professional manner, whatever and however, that might be to you.
I think every business defines “professional” differently depending on your brand to begin with.
Let me give you a good example of what you could say:
“Grabbing my cup of coffee and crushing the precious 15 minutes I have to brainstorm each day. This isn’t quite what I imagined when I started working from home! Anyone else feeling me?”
Okay, now let me give you a bad example of what you shouldn’t do:
“OMG, I’m going to pull my hair out. My kids are driving me f*ck’n nuts and WHY can’t my husband help with the housekeeping? What, do I look like a maid? I haven’t gotten a single order this week and our bank account is overdrawn. This better be over with soon!”
See what I’m saying?
It’s not about honesty, but about perspective. Some people are just wired to view things through a more negative lens and it’s especially important that if that’s you, that you take some extra time to reflect and find the positive.
I also don’t think you want to just be sickly sweet because that can easily come off as looking fake.
The trick I like to use is, if you have anything negative to say, you can say it but you should always try to finish your writing on a positive note.
You don’t want to leave people with a negative taste in their mouth when they interact with you.
In a complicated situation, it’s okay to be a bit vague and filter your thoughts. With the good example, did you notice that you can’t really tell whether the business owner only gets 15 minutes of work time a day, or was it 15 minutes of brainstorm time? It’s just a bit ambiguous, and that’s okay. Your audience doesn’t need to see a minute-by-minute schedule.
Details of Your Messaging
Let’s talk a bit more about the details of your messaging strategy in a crisis. I’ve always advised you to share information related to your business.
Having a very well-rounded account, in general, makes it more difficult to play nice with the algorithm and gain followers.
What I mean by that is, if you don’t have a focus theme for your social media accounts, it’s hard to stand out and get good engagement. Every successful account out there has a niche and they usually only post things that are related to that niche.
Having said that, these aren’t normal times and if you’re struggling with writing your regular business posts, experiment by going a little bit broader!
Try exploring other topics that you think would be interesting to your audience. If you’re not sure what that might be, ask them!
Ask your followers how you can support them, what they need help with, what they’re struggling with. If it makes sense, you might be able to share your thoughts about those questions in future posts.
For example, let’s say you make children’s upcycled clothing. So your audience are probably moms and parents. They might tell you that they’re struggling to do homeschooling or they’re running out of ideas for what activities to do with their kids. Or maybe they’re struggling to find time for themselves.
These are probably things you’ve either dealt with before, or you’re dealing with right now, yourself. So share with your followers what you’ve found has helped you.
If you don’t know, even just sharing that you’re in the same boat and that you’re all in this together is encouraging enough for someone else to read.
It shows you’re human, and people love that.
I have a whole video that talks about great content ideas you can use, even if your shop is closed. So be sure to check that out. The more useful content you can put out to your audience, the more you’ll connect with them.
I hope these three key strategies: confronting the situation, speaking authentically and posting content that connects, helps you plan your messaging during this crisis.