Get to the Point: Efficient Crisis Communications

There’s an abundance of daily updates about the COVID-19 crisis everywhere, from news publications to Instagram posts to email listservs. People want to stay informed, but they don’t want to be overwhelmed.

As a financial brand, your customers or members expect to hear from you during an emergency that has an impact on how your institution operates. This gives you an opportunity to establish your brand as a helpful and trustworthy voice in a time of high uncertainty. To do that, you must communicate effectively and efficiently. 

Here are 5 steps your financial institution can take to inform, educate, and engage your customers or members during this crisis.

Step 1: Skip the Preamble and Put the Bottom Line Up Front

Readers make a snap judgment whether to continue reading based on a headline or first sentence. What do they need to know? Put that in the first line of your communication.

When drafting a message, follow the BLUF model used by military professionals: put the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF). In as few words as possible, state the purpose of the message and answer the who, what, where, when, and why in your opening line. Then, use bold text to emphasize key takeaways.

One great example of this is Teachers Credit Union’s Coronavirus Update page. It has the most important information for credit union members clearly summarized in the first sentence in bold text: “All TCU Drive-Ups remain open. To ensure the health and safety of our members and team members, lobby service is available by appointment only.”

Why is this effective? Members know what they need to know about the status of TCU service after reading one short sentence.

Step 2: Leave Ample White Space

In an important announcement about crisis resources or operational changes, your customers or members want a concise and readable summary. 

To make it easy for your readers to quickly scan and understand your message:

  • Write short, declarative sentences.
  • Break them up with plenty of white space. 
  • Keep paragraphs within 4 lines.
  • Use a bulleted list, if you have several points to make.

To get an idea of what that message should look like, check out Guild Mortgage’s COVID-19 page: it’s concise, with 1- to 2-sentence paragraphs and a bulleted list of what customers should know about making mortgage payments at this time.

Step 3: Add a Clear Call to Action

If you’re inviting your reader to reach out to a customer or member support line, or to learn more on your website, clearly designate that call to action (CTA) visually at the end of your message.

Don’t try to answer all of your audience’s questions in the message – that would violate steps 1 and 2. Direct your readers to contact information, in-depth resources, and other crisis-related help with links at the end of your message.

Wells Fargo does a good job of this on their COVID-19 landing page. It houses all of the bank’s COVID-19-related resources and includes CTAs. These direct visitors to learn more about available digital tools, check the status of a local branch, or visit the CDC’s website for bank and ATM safety

Step 4: Communicate Routinely

Strike a balance between being overbearing and silent. Your customers or members need to know when something has changed, but they won’t want to hear from you every day if you have nothing new to report.

Establish a regular cadence that makes sense for your brand to communicate announcements to your customers. A weekly rhythm for your communications is likely appropriate, but you should announce important updates as soon as you have them.

If nothing has changed week-to-week, you might round up some insightful and relevant news articles to share with your readers or remind them of the resources available on your app or website. Whatever your email cadence, be sure to keep all landing pages and COVID-19-specific resources up-to-date.

Step 5: Align Messaging across Channels

Make sure your messaging is consistent across all your customer or member channels, including email, social, and mobile app content. Conflicting tones or statements can confuse your readers and erode trust.

Bear in mind that some customers or members might be more tuned into one channel than another. Synchronize your messaging updates across all channels to ensure that your audience gets the same message, however they hear from you.

Be Clear, Concise, and Consistent with Crisis Communications

Effective communication is a crucial component of customer or member trust during a crisis. If your customers or members know they can count on you now, they’ll know they can count on you for years to come. 

Stick to these three C’s when communicating with your customers or members during an emergency. Establish your brand now as a trustworthy and accessible source of information during this stressful period and into the future.