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Crisis Communication for Small Businesses: 7 Ways to Empathetically Communicate with Your Clients in the Midst of COVID-19

Live life to the fullest! You might never get another chance to spend your money—and what’s the point of having worked so hard this long then? Buy our products before you die! We’re all going to die! Millions of people will be infected before we find a vaccine—and Fauci says we won’t do that in maybe 12, 18 months! YOLO!

Live life to the fullest! You might never get another chance to spend your money—and what’s the point of having worked so hard this long then? Buy our products before you die! We’re all going to die! Millions of people will be infected before we find a vaccine—and Fauci says we won’t do that in maybe 12, 18 months! YOLO!


Don’t Do That

By that we mean what we did in the beginning of this article. Of course, no sensible business is ever going to use those words anyway, but in times like these, it’s easy to say things you shouldn’t—without even realizing what you’re saying.

In a time like this, when world leaders have given in to easy racism and businesses are already facing uncertainty, a little empathy can go a long way. As a small and emerging business, you shouldn’t forget that any wrong step you take now will end up causing problems for you later on. You’ll be scrutinized and the eye of the media will be on you like a hawk roosting.

If there ever was a time to tread carefully, it’s now. Knowing the right terminology (it’s not Chinese virus, and it’s definitely not Kung flu), getting your facts right (the virus didn’t spread because someone drank bat soup) and being genuinely conscious about what you’re saying right now matters.

Don’t Dismiss Communication—Especially Not Now


While we know that most businesses are either not functional for some time or are functioning in a limited capacity, this does not dictate that all communication should. Business-client communication is an essential part of keeping your business alive, especially at a time when they can easily forget about you if they aren’t using your services.

And if you’re out of ideas, just look at how other business giants are doing it. AMC Theatres wrote to their customers directly. Apple made an announcement about closing all stores while paying their staff full pay (full points for Apple!) and donating $15 million (Apple really knows how to do PR right). Delta sent email updates and created a news hub online to keep their clients connected. Lyft also sent emails and announced the distribution of cleaning supplies. Marriott announced hot new policies and was transparent with their customers about how well their rooms were maintained; and Starbucks did something similar.

Taco Bell, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, and others have also taken the initiative. What’s similar in all these very prudent steps is an effort to keep the clients and customers “in the loop.” The customers and clients might not be at leisure to buy products and services like they regularly do, but they still feel connected in some way. You could also use this Coronavirus Response Toolkit provided by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to further help you in your efforts.

Here are 7 Ways in Which You Can be Empathetic in Your Communication


The COVID-19 situation has taken a terrible toll on people’s mental health, whether or not it registers. Paranoia spreads faster than any virus—this much was evident when people flocked fully stocked stores in a bid to panic-buy, and we saw shelves emptying faster than they do on Black Fridays. Coronavirus anxiety is a thing, experts keep warning that mental health will be affected, and there are studies that even hint towards an emotional impact of the virus.

It is easy to see why. With 54,465 people dead and 1,034,116 people affected worldwide, everyone is worried. What you don’t want to do, as a small business owner in these times, is to put them off further. Instead, your website and your social media pages should come off as inclusive, responsible, empathetic safe spaces. Some of the things that you can do to ensure this are:

  1. Don’t—and we can’t believe we’re saying this in 2020—be racist: Bear in mind that hate crime has increased towards Asian Americans, and that is a sad state of affairs.
  2. Focus on the silver lining: Don’t dwell too much on the “negatives.” In fact, eliminate all negative keywords from your web content. This is the time to be positive and spread positivity.
  3. Don’t share memes on your Facebook page: We know it can be tempting to share a Batman meme and be all punny about it, but this isn’t the time. It comes off as insensitive.
  4. Don’t. . . do what the K-pop star did: Kim Jae-Joong, a K-pop singer, announced on April the 1st about being hospitalized during the Coronavirus. It was later revealed he had pulled an “April Fools” joke. The media is going to hound him forever, and it was a very insensitive joke to begin with.
  5. Also don’t do what Vanessa Hudgens did: In a video that has since gone viral, Vanessa Hudgens is recorded saying absolutely incredulous things like “It’s a virus. I get it. I respect it. . . . but people die. . .” Like her K-pop counterpart, Hudgens proved that she’s taking this whole situation very lightly, and cares little about the lives on stake. You must be mindful of falling into this trap especially if you’re working with social media influencers—have a talk with them about the content they’re going to be creating.
  6. Reach out: Keep posting, be regular, and show your clients and customers that you miss them and care for them.
  7. Share responsible blogs: This quarantine time is a great time to devise stellar content pieces and share them on your social media pages. After all, with so many people on lockdown and glued to their screens, more people will be reading what you’re writing. This is a great opportunity to expand your readership and tap into new markets.

Keep Creating Content


Even if you’re forced to work from home or halt your operations for a while, the one thing that you can still do is create content. Blogs, articles, newsletters, emails, infographics, videos, PPC marketing—all can be done from home. This is an ideal time to promote your content which should be about both: your business and the situation outside.

Ensure you’re incorporating long-tail keywords into your blogs for better reach. Also, add these keywords to your URL and meta tags. Incorporate the current situation into your content—find out what people are concerned about and what they’re searching for. Use the BERT method and Google Trends to help you.

Don’t Forget SEO

SEO should never be forgotten because with most businesses having gone digital, internet traffic is bound to be high. You’ll be struggling more to get to the prized ranks on Google SERPs. If you have never gone digital before, and this is your first time, enlisting link building and essential SEO services of a professional will go a long way. If your business has a physical location, make sure you’re getting someone experienced in local SEO services. It’s a contactless partnership and will keep you soaring above the competition as the internet becomes more and more crowded during the pandemic.

And finally, be as empathetic in your tone as you can. Be conversational. Remember that people are almost bored of sitting at home and can do with some refreshing content instead of something dry and technical. Encourage them to leave comments about their wellbeing or concerned. Read those comments and respond to them. Bond with the clients and customers—this is the perfect time to do so. And these prospective customers won’t forget you once this whole situation is over.

The author is a small business SEO specialist for Search Berg. Having helped many small businesses rank on top with professional website SEO strategies, the author is focusing on helping local physical small businesses manage their digital shifts better.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Edward brown

    April 17, 2020 at 6:23 am

    Yep..even though it seems settling done… this is something we need to remember that this is our time to shine to not loosen up… and keep creating content 🙂

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