“We’ve experienced significant crises in our world over the past several months and while it’s impacted our lives in a major way, it’s also affected the way we market our business too. And how you handle your marketing during a time of crisis is critical.” - Amanda McKinney
I’ve received many questions about how to handle marketing during a time of crisis when things are uncertain and feel out of our control. And beyond questions, I received messages of “Amanda, you should have a podcast episode about how to market your yoga business during a crisis”. So I’m listening and responding to your heartfelt request.
Here’s my 10 step process that can help you navigate your marketing during any type of crisis.
First, we need to talk about what a crisis is and the common threads for all the crises that can arise. While each will be unique and will need to be handled differently in your business, this process can help you navigate the uncertain time in real-time. Save this list, bookmark the social post or show notes page. Do whatever you need to do to have this handy. Because if there’s anything common for all crises, it’s this:
“During a crisis it’s really hard to think clearly. If you can have a process that you can follow it will help guide you to make the best decisions for you and your business. Planning before it hits will help you when you’re in the middle of it.” - Amanda McKinney
Definition of a crisis
Merriam-Webster defines a crisis as “an emotionally significant event or radical change of status”, “an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending” and “a situation that has reached a critical phase”.
There are many different types of crises so let’s outline the different types so we can break this down and find the common ground between them all.
Types of Crises
Natural Crisis - these are environmental that are generally out of the control of humans. Examples of a natural crisis are a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, tsunamis, flood and drought. Recently, we are experiencing the Covid19 pandemic which falls into this category.
Social/Cultural Crisis - this is any change or event that pushes a government, nation or people into severe pressure that a breakdown of law and order may happen. These are incidents that often lead to dangerous situations affecting individuals and society as a whole. Examples include riots, political issues, terrorist attacks. Recently, we are experiencing the Black Lives Matter Movement which falls into this category.
Technological Crisis - these are due to a failure in technology. This can be a breakdown of your systems as a business owner or tech that’s out of your control. Examples include a breakdown of a machine, corrupted software, and internet issues.
Personal Crisis - these happen in our personal lives and occur when an individual can no longer cope with a certain situation without coping mechanisms. Examples can include loss of a loved-one, social or familial turmoil, and medical emergencies.
Commonalities of all Crises
As we look at the different types of crises we can experience as human and business owners it can feel overwhelming to plan for them all. But the great news is that you don’t need to break them all down because there are some commonalities among them.
According to Wikipedia, the defining characteristics of a crisis are:
They are unexpected
It creates uncertainty
It is seen as a threat to important goals
“When we look at all the types of crises to see what we need to plan for, we need to plan for an unexpected event that will lead to uncertainty in our minds and our business and that will feel like a threat to our goals. So we need a plan that we can implement quickly and with as little emotional-decision making as possible” - Amanda McKinney
10 Plan for Marketing During a Crisis
Step 1: Pause, listen and observe
As a yoga teacher, you know a lot about the nervous system. Please use this to your advantage because when a crisis happens our minds and bodies go into “fight or flight” mode. And the fact that you’re running a business and it’s a recipe for stress and for your brain to say “I have to act now”. This comes from a great place because you care about your students and your business so you want to take care of it all so you feel like you need to act fast. But fight this instinct and pause. Meditate. Listen and take in information. Observe what’s happening and do your best to take a step back and let your emotions calm down. The best thing you can do for you and your business is to pause, listen and observe before making any decisions.
How long should you pause?
This depends on the crisis situation. If you’re running into a tech issue that’s affecting your business and costing you money, take a minute to take in the information and then meditate. This may only be a few minutes but it’s still important to pause. If this is a global crisis that’s affecting more than just your business, your pause may be a few days instead of a few minutes.
Regardless of how long you pause, please don’t share any marketing messages while you do this. Hit pause on any marketing that you need to so you can make an informed decision.
Step 2: Think about your audience and what they need from you
So often we will jump to the thought of “I have to do something” but the most important thing you can do next is to think about what your audience needs. Does your audience need to hear from you during this crisis?
Maybe everyone on social media is sharing but is it critical for you to post right now?
Maybe everyone is starting a GoFundMe account to donate to crisis centers but is that the best way for you to serve your audience?
Maybe your staff is telling you that you need to stop everything to email your students due to a system error, but unless you know that it affected all of your students, is it best to email everyone?
Maybe you feel like you need to share your personal story with your student but do you really need to share all the details?
Remember, you know your audience and the brand that you’ve been working hard to create. Your next steps need to be intentional or you could do more harm than good with your marketing.
“Take time to check in with your knowledge about your audience and think “how should I show up for them at this moment? How can I support them best?” - Amanda McKinney
You could find that through this process you recognize that you, personally, want to do something in this crisis but your business doesn’t need to be the vehicle to communicate this message. Do you want the message to come from you or your business? As a yoga teacher it’s hard to distinguish between the two but there’s a difference between sharing a post on your social media channel and posting an update on your website. Decide which is best for you and your audience.
Step 3: Consider your options and assess the timeline
As you took time to pause and think about your audience, you were likely thinking of options for what you could do. Maybe you saw what others were doing already, maybe you have new ideas, maybe you have no idea what to do but you know you need to do something. This is the step where you look at your options and determine when you need to make a choice. You need to tell your brain that it has space to make a decision. Give yourself space to decide on the path that’s best for you and your business.
If you find yourself highly emotional, talk to someone else who knows your business enough to ask questions. Share with them what you’re thinking or where you’re feeling stuck and have them help you walk through this. This is where business-besties and other yoga teachers will be helpful. They will know where you’re coming from and are likely going through (or have gone through) a similar situation.
Here’s how to organize your thoughts in this step:
At the top of a piece of paper, write down the outcome or thought that you want to share. Ex: you want to share your point of view on a topic; you want to share how you are helping those going through a natural disaster and how your students can help; you need to correct a technical issue that occurred and share the solution.
Under the solution, identify when you need to make your decision and communicate with your audience or internal staff. This will help you know how much breathing room you have to make the best decision for you and your business.
Under the timeframe, list out all of your options and what it would be like to take that path. For example, if you want to set up a fund to support people who were impacted by a local disaster, what do you need to do before you share this message with your students and how do you want the message to be received. Write out all you can think about for each possible situation.
Step 4: Decide on your path
Most likely as you were writing out your possible paths, you knew which one you wanted to go with. You probably wrote more about one than the others or maybe you only had one. Do one more check on these things and then decide.
Does this align with your personal and business values?
Is this what your audience needs?
Are you prepared for positive and negative comments related to your decision?
“Trust your gut and move forward with intention.” - Amanda McKinney
Step 5: Pause/stop all marketing
If you haven’t already, pause ALL marketing efforts as you evaluate and make changes if you will be communicating with your audience from your business about the crisis.
Cancel all social media posts that are pre-scheduled
Un-schedule all emails that are pre-scheduled
Stop all ads that are running
*Note: if you had a technical issue, you may not have to stop or pause all marketing but it’s a good idea to check in on this in case it does need to be paused.
Step 6: Create your core crisis marketing message
Go back to your piece of paper that had the outcome you wanted to share with your audience. This will help guide your messaging.
“What message do you want to share with your audience? What is the action you need or want them to take (if any)?” - Amanda McKinney
Make sure you are really clear on this, especially if you are emotional about this message. So often we are living the crisis as a business owner too so it’s important to try and remove emotion as you’re working on marketing messaging. There are times when it’s appropriate to show emotion in your words or voice but other times when it’s not, be sure to check in with this so you know the message you want to share AND the way you want to share it.
Write down your main message exactly how you want to share it. You will likely have 1 to 3 sentences that you will use over and over again during your crisis marketing. You will elaborate for emails and scale down for social posts sometimes but overall, have a short statement that you can refer to that conveys the message you want to have for your business.
Step 7: Review & change/create marketing message
Once you know your core message, it’s time to update your marketing to reflect your message that you want to share with your audience.
If you need to update your messaging:
Often during a crisis you can keep your same marketing plan, meaning posting on social a certain amount of times per week and emailing a certain amount of times per month. If this is the case, go into all your paused posts and emails and update the messaging based on your core crisis marketing message.
If you need all new messaging:
Take time to plan this out, please do not wing your marketing during a crisis. You need to be intentional about when and where you’re sharing. You can approach this just like you do an overall marketing plan but it will likely be a condensed version:
Decide what channel will share your first message (most of the time, this will be email)
Decide where (if needed) you will share this message on your other marketing channels. Ex: sharing the same message on Facebook and Instagram.
Decide how frequently you need to communicate with your audience. Remember to keep your audience in mind and realistically ask yourself how often they need to hear from you on this.
Get the first messages created and scheduled. Ideally, if you share the same message on multiple platforms you will do so at the same time or close to it. For example, write and schedule your email and then have your social media posts go out as well.
Schedule the next few marketing messages if needed. Typically you can schedule weeks in advance but during a crisis you will likely have to update your messaging so only schedule things 1-day out.
“Work on your messaging one day at a time during a crisis.” - Amanda McKinney
Step 8: Check in with ads (if needed)
If you were running ads and paused them, check back in on this. Sometimes you need to keep them off during a crisis, sometimes it’s best to change the messaging and sometimes it’s best to increase your budget so you can help more people. This will be determined by the type of crisis.
Something else to remember with ads is the type of ads you’re running. If you are running Facebook and Instagram ads, you will likely need to adjust them somehow. But if you’re running Google Ads, you might not need to pause, stop or change these. Google Ads run when someone searches for something specific so you wouldn’t necessarily have to cancel these if they are running.
Step 9: Pause, listen and respond to your audience
As you move forward with whatever action you and your business is taking in the time of crisis, don’t forget to listen to your audience. Check in on email and social media comments to address questions and comments. You don’t want to send a message that you’re “here for them” and then not actually be there. Please make sure that you have someone dedicated to your marketing during this time and that includes responding.
Step 10: Adjust messaging based on your audience needs
As the crisis continues to unfold (and hopefully slow down or end), adjust your messaging based on your audience’s needs. Do they need more communication or less? If you see similar messages or questions, be proactive and share that information and post it to your website if appropriate.
“Overall, each crisis will be different and unique but the process to assess your marketing should be similar. Pause, evaluate, make a plan, implement and adjust as needed.” - Amanda McKinney
And above all else, stay true to your personal and business values and know your audience. Know what they need and deliver it to them. If you aren’t sure, ask them or look to see what other businesses that serve your dream student are doing. Don’t be afraid to see what others are doing and allow it to inspire you as well, just make sure you don’t feel the pressure to do something “just because” someone else is doing it. You need to stay true to you and your business and brand.
Your next step
Download the free PDF that maps out this process so you always have it ready and on-hand.
We are living in a really difficult time right now and I know it’s hard to know how to navigate it all. Take time for you, remember to pause and if you have questions about marketing in a crisis, please reach out. I will answer all your questions. I’m here for you and sending you so much love today and always.
Until next time, give yourself permission to pause and grace along the way. Talk to you soon.
Have the process on-hand, always!
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