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EPISODE 11: How To Create Compassionate Content During A Crisis, Part I

by Dec 8, 2020Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • The different types of crisis
  • Common businesses responses in times of crisis
  • Ways to prepare your content plan for a crisis
  • The importance of compassion in content

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all experienced firsthand how our businesses and brands have had to adapt during a crisis.

As human beings, we crave stability. The COVID-19 pandemic is an extreme example, but a crisis is really any event that causes us to experience instability. And instability and pre-planned content do not mix.

Content management during a crisis is tough. But while you can’t predict the future, you can prepare for it.

 

In today’s episode, you’ll learn: 

  • How personal, regional, community, and global crises can affect content
  • The three most common ways businesses respond to a crisis {and how you SHOULD be responding}
  • Four ways to prepare your content to respond in times of crisis
  • The importance of compassion in content

If you want to learn more about managing content creation during a crisis, check out our blog post here. And stay tuned for Part 2 of How To Create Compassionate Content During A Crisis, coming next week.

 

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi Honard:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we're digging into how you can create personality driven content that connects and converts. I'm Jessi.

Marie Parks:
And I'm Marie.

Jessi Honard:
We're the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners and outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Marie Parks:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell, so you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Jessi Honard:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Marie Parks:
Hello listeners and welcome to another episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. We've got a two-part episode here. This is part one. The next episode will be part two, and this is all about how to create compassionate content during a crisis.

Jessi Honard:
Yeah, and this is a really important topic to talk about because our businesses run on content. Often, that is the place where people get to know us first and foremost, and when crises happen as they tend to do, because that's life. Life does not come without its roadblocks, its pitfalls, its things that happen that we need to respond to. Content is often where people see what those responses are and create opinions based on those responses. So we're recording this in 2020, which is the year of crises. And so, I think it's particularly important to talk about this now, but also within the context of these are ongoing things that happen in our lives at different levels. So we're going to kick it off with a definition of what we mean when we say crisis, because it's kind of a big, scary word.

Marie Parks:
Yeah. So obviously the thing that's top of mind for us right now at the time of recording is the pandemic and there's some elements here that are shared by other crises and there's some that aren't. So we're defining crisis just for the purpose of this podcast episode and the next one as some kind of event or happening that is leading to an unstable situation that affects at least one person. So the COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis. When this first started becoming a part of the popular awareness, it really did affect everybody in every corner of the globe. That's pretty rare that there's an event of that scale, but it definitely does happen. Things like world wars or climate change or whatever it is, then things get a little bit smaller.
So they become kind of regional or community level crises. So for instance, again, at the time of recording, the western half of the United States is pretty much on fire. And so that's something that's affecting a region or community, and certainly could affect you as a business owner, your clients, your audience. Then even get even smaller into specific groups. So this could be a group of people who have a shared interest, maybe there's something going on within your industry, for instance.
And then finally, it's on the smallest level, the individual level, you and your family. If something is happening that is creating an unstable situation and this doesn't have to be bad. For instance, maybe you're expecting a child and you're about to go on parental leave. This is going to cause some shifts and changes in how you're running your business and you just want to make sure that your audience knows about that because all of a sudden you're going to be disappearing from view in certain ways for a little while. So it doesn't have to be, when we say crisis, that definitely has a negative connotation, but it doesn't have to be negative.

Jessi Honard:
Yeah. I think the instability is the key part here because we as human beings, we really crave stability. So even if it is a good thing that is causing the instability, there's a part of our brain that sort of scrambles when something changes and really wants to recreate some sense of stability. Often these crises are negative, but they aren't always. And when they are negative, that sense of uncertainty and fear is amplified because there are a lot of possible consequences that feel scary.
And this is when content becomes really important because content is one of many avenues through which you can at least start to create a little bit of a sense of security, whether you're talking about a crisis that happens on the individual level or the global level. And so we're going to be talking today very broadly because this can apply to a lot of different situations rather than honing in on one specific crisis, because we want to give you some tools of how crises are looked at from a content perspective holistically, as opposed to we're going to focus in on COVID for example, which is yes, very important and very top of mind right now, but is one specific crisis, as opposed to all of the different things that may or may not pop up in the duration of your business.

Marie Parks:
Right. I quickly want to say what this and the next episode or not, which is we're not actually going to help you with crisis planning in your business. We're not here to help you set up the systems behind the scenes that make all that happen, or to have those conversations about that internally with your team. This is really, really focused on how you handle content specifically, because here's the problem, if you are planning your content in advance, you're probably feeling great.
You're like, "Hey, I've got three months or one month or whatever of content planned out ahead of time." And even if that's not where you are, you maybe have an idea like, "Okay, well I'd like to launch this product in a month or two. And so I just want to be thinking about content that creates that." Even if you're creating content as you go a bit more organically, you probably have an idea of where you're going. And then all of a sudden there's this unstability and now all this prescheduled content feels wrong. It doesn't really address what's actually happening, what's feeling very important or top of mind for you, and suddenly now you have upcoming plans, current events and your goals all just in this big tornado of question marks.

Jessi Honard:
Yeah, absolutely. And it creates this discordant environment where the people who are responding live, especially if it's a larger scale crisis, if it's something where it's happening regionally or within your industry, or even globally, you have a lot of people who are responding in real time. And if you have, for example, something that was pre-scheduled and isn't changed, it comes out and it has no mention whatsoever of what's happening in the world, people notice that. It sticks out like a sore thumb and it can make the people who are following you and your content a little confused.
And they might be wondering why you're ignoring this thing, even though that wasn't your intention. And so it becomes really important to evaluate the content that you have and we'll talk a little bit more about how to do that in the next episode, but just knowing that when instability happens, not having any sort of framework for responding to it can allow your content to start to seem a little off kilter from reality, a little bit distant from what the real world is actually feeling like to your audience.

Marie Parks:
Right. And so there's three possible avenues that most businesses fall into when something like this happens. Number one is the knee-jerk reaction. And so something happens, they maybe see that other people are responding in a certain way. And so they're like, "We better hurry up and get our response out there." And it's a quick response that may have the best of intentions. You're trying to address the situation, so that's great, but maybe you didn't have a chance to get quite enough thought and all of a sudden now you find yourself backpedaling later or apologizing maybe for the way something was handled or just wishing that you'd handled it a little bit differently, knowing what you know in the future. Now we're not saying that this is necessarily a problem where you are not allowed to respond immediately, but just be aware of that knee-jerk reaction. What's the second thing that can happen, Jessi?

Jessi Honard:
Yeah. The second is really the opposite and it's silence. You see this a lot when either people don't know how to react or they just don't really know how they want to say it. And so they say nothing and when they say nothing, then we always say silence sends a message too. And so it's really important to understand that your silence is still saying something.

Marie Parks:
Exactly. And so then finally, the last bucket is the intentional bucket and that's the bucket that I think we all want to strive to land in, and that's where all this planning that we're going to be talking about in this episode and the next episode is really going to come in handy. But it's really about grounding yourself in your values, your content, your goals, but also what's happening in this crisis or this unstable situation so that you can really address all of it and do so with transparency, honesty, and integrity. So I think something that you just said, Jessi, was really important about silence sending a message, but the bottom line is there is no business in the world that is apolitical or that exists outside of current events. You may disagree with us on this. That includes personal events, by the way, it's not just national news or whatever. You may disagree with us on this, but we're hoping that through listening to this episode, that you may come to a different understanding because a lot of people want to say, "My company has never taken a political stance or we've never really spoken much about human rights issues, even though I really care about it. It's important to me or maybe it's not." Whatever the case is, it feels like, "Well, I don't want to scare off my clients. I don't want to divide people." And we're here to say that sometimes repelling people who aren't a good fit for you is okay, first of all. But second of all, when you then choose to say nothing, that does actually say something. This is maybe a intense example, but I worked at a Holocaust museum before I went full-time with this company and really learned that as a kid, I thought that well, if you're a bystander, it's not as bad as a perpetrator.
That, well you didn't do anything wrong. And you're not participating in something, but you're the victim either. Those were sort of the three categories that I thought there were. And I didn't actually realize that there's a fourth category, which is upstander, and that is the opportunity for somebody who maybe isn't directly involved. They're not perpetrating something or they're not being attacked directly, but if you feel like you're separate from something, you have two options, which is to be a bystander or to be an upstander. And that's really it. You not making a choice is making a choice.

Jessi Honard:
Yeah and I think we wouldn't be able to have this episode without mentioning the other human rights issue that's happening this year, which is the Black Lives Matter movement. And especially when the protests first started really picking up back in June, we're recording this episode in September, and from a content perspective and from a business perspective, there were a lot of eyeballs on people and businesses to see how they would respond and those responses or lack thereof meant something, and so did the action that followed up those responses. And a lot of times, we'll go into this in more detail in the next episode, but a lot of times the only way the audience knew both what the business stood for and whether they actually stuck to what they said they would do was through content.

Marie Parks:
Absolutely. It's so important. So thanks for bringing that example up Jessi. And obviously that's the human rights issue that's on our minds being located in the United States. That's not to say that there aren't other ones, because there are around the world right now, but that was absolutely important in our community that people were really watching and really taking a look. And you're right, the follow-up is key too and content is the window into all of that.
So your content does need to reflect how you're handling these things. Transparency is key. Integrity is key. And we're going to talk a little bit more about the specifics of what you do about it in the next episode. But in this episode, we want to help you think about preparing. Before a crisis even hits, there's some things that you can be thinking about and preparing for. So let's talk about that there are four items that we're going to talk through today about how you can think ahead and prepare. This may not be the sexiest thing in the world, but just know that the work that you do here, as a result of thinking through what we talk about in this episode can really serve you in the future.

Jessi Honard:
Yeah and I want to challenge you as we're going through this list to think about it in the context of your own business. So if you are able to grab a notebook and follow along and write as we go and even apply it in your mind to a hypothetical crisis. I live in California, so the one I always come up with is, what if the big earthquake hits? How would I take all these things and apply it to my own situation? You can create whatever hypothetical crisis you want, but regardless of whether it's something personal, something global or anywhere in between, think about it and think about it in context of your business as we go through these four different things that you really want to have in place before anything happens.

Marie Parks:
Absolutely. Okay. So number one thing to think through and prepare is thinking about your brand values. Very simply, what does your brand stand for? This doesn't necessarily mean that it's, you got to go put some brand values on your home page or your about page and have a little bulleted list. If you have something like that, that's awesome. If you don't, that's awesome. Actions do speak louder than words at the end of the day, and so if you have something like that as a grounding tool and a mechanism for yourself, great, but at the end of the day, again, it's your actions and how they reflect that. So it's important regardless of how or if you share those brand values publicly to have an internal conversation with yourself or your team about them to really understand what they are.
And I think that is really going to be the number one key that guides you in terms of how you respond, because we're going to talk about some other elements here, but this is the most important one. And if you know what your brand values are and what you stand for, then you're going to have a much clearer idea and also know that as a crisis comes up, you may discover there are additional brand values that you weren't aware of before. If something comes up and you're like, "Wow, that is just really hitting me and I'm very invested in this and I really want to discuss it." Great. Okay, well now you've just uncovered a new brand value, so you can add that to your list. It can be growing and changing over time.

Jessi Honard:
Yeah. And if you are a little fuzzy on your brand values, you haven't really taken the time to sit down and write them out, we actually have a whole episode on creating your brand values and incorporating them into your content. I believe it's episode seven. So definitely go give that a listen, if that whole idea of brand values is a little foreign to you. That's totally fine. It's the sort of thing that tends to exist in your business sometimes without you realizing it. So it's really valuable to take the time to actually write them down and get a solid idea of, "Okay, these are the things that we stand for. So when something happens, we have that as a lens and a framework to work with any crisis that happens at any level."

Marie Parks:
Exactly. So number two thing to prepare is to think through who are your stakeholders, your collaborators, those people who have a say in how your brand responds to any situation. Maybe they're not necessarily the people who are signing off on every single Instagram post that goes out, but just broadly speaking, who are the people who have a voice for the organization? It's very important to think through who those people are and have a conversation with them on the front end, so that you're not scrambling on the back end. So we tend to work with a lot of small businesses where there's maybe one CEO or maybe co-founders or business partners. And so you may be tempted to think if that's you, "Well, it's just me. I'm the person who has to make that decision." But that's not necessarily the case.
It could be that you have somebody who's working with you to create some content, maybe emails or social media posts or anything like that. They need to be brought on as well to the same page. If you have any investors who are involved in the messaging of the business, bring them in. If you have a board of directors, bring them in. It really can change.
The other thing that people may not be thinking about is their partners. So if you have an affiliate program or something like that where there are people who are representing your brand and they're not actually on your payroll, you don't even necessarily think of them as part of your staff, because they aren't. They may have their own entire company or audience or maybe they're an influencer, but they are representing you as they go out into the world because you've selected them to be an affiliate or some kind of collaborative partner. Make sure that they're in on this conversation too. They don't necessarily get a say so much, but they really need to have this communicated with them. So take a look at all of those people, those stakeholders who are responsible for putting your message out into the world.

Jessi Honard:
Absolutely. So we want to be aware of our brand values and we want to be aware of the stakeholders and collaborators that we're working with. And then the next group that we need to be aware of, who we really should always be aware of in some way, are the members of our audience, who we're communicating to. We talked to in a previous episode about really understanding our audience through our target audience framework and this is similar in that you really want to know who those people are because that will help you assess how they're going to be impacted. This is particularly true for the crises that are on an industry level or a community level or a global level, but even on a personal level, it's helpful to know who you're communicating with because it can help you frame the content that you create in a way that is easier for them to relate to and to understand, and to really sink into your way of responding to this crisis. It builds that bridge between the way that you're communicating and the way that they're communicated in a way that really makes it easier and creates that stability faster.

Marie Parks:
Right. And I would advise you to err on the side of compassion always, and that assuming that they get it or they care about it or they care about you because many times they will. Or maybe you're bringing something to their attention for the first time, but this is an opportunity for you to educate them on it. But we never want to be talking down to them. We want to be speaking to them as peers and equals and really be respectful of them. We don't know what anybody is going through at any given time. And so, this is why this episode is called Creating Compassionate Content because really compassion needs to be the front of that message to the audience. So-

Jessi Honard:
Yeah, absolutely. So the last one then, so we have our brand values, stakeholders and collaborators, audience. And then the last thing is knowing your content plan. Even if you are not in the content creation yourself, maybe you've outsourced it to someone else, knowing at least who to talk to, to get an understanding of what is currently live, what is scheduled to go live? Do I have ads running that are just always going in the background? What historic content that maybe was published two or three years ago do I regularly get visitors looking at? So on any given day, someone will be looking at that content. Knowing where your content is in the ecosystem of your business at any given time, or at least being able to tap into that knowledge when you need it, is really important because when something happens and you need to use content to address what is happening, you want to make sure you're not creating that disconnect that we talked about at the beginning of the episode.

Marie Parks:
Absolutely. So here's an example from a client. So we work with a woman who has a course specifically for dentists and the course is an online course. So one of the benefits of the course has always been, "Hey, you don't have to even shut down your practice to come do this continuing education course. You can just do this in your off time." Well, when COVID-19 came on the scene, suddenly people were having to shut down their practices anyway and all of a sudden now having this big old, "Look, you don't even have to shut down your practice." Was like, "That did not connect anymore. It didn't make sense." And so we realized, "Oh, we need to make a list of the places where we talk about that benefit or really talk about any benefits. Here are the places where there's sensitive topics that we just need to be able to quickly go in and address and now have..."
Well, you could do it different ways. You could do it through a spreadsheet where you're linking directly to things if you have a project management software, which is what we're using for this to say, "Okay, here are the places to just check in sometime that there's something coming up." If there's some kind of crisis, as we're calling it or unstable situation. These are the 10 places we just need to look, see if the messaging still works, if we need to make any tweaks, great. And then, we'll follow up with it in a week or two or a month or whatever the case is to see, "Okay, is it time to put it back? Do we need to make this change permanent?" But that way it's just easy. Now we can just go forward and say, "Okay, these are the places we're going to just double check."

Jessi Honard:
Yeah, absolutely. And this is something that's really easy for you to put in place early on right now, because you don't actually have to do all of those things immediately because something like the example that Marie just gave, that particular aspect of running a business, and in this case a dental practice, that all of a sudden became sensitive, there was no way to anticipate prior to the crisis happening that that would become a sensitive issue. So you don't necessarily have to go and make a record of anything that could potentially become problematic if any potential crisis happened, because that's impossible. We have no way of predicting the future. But what is really valuable is knowing, "Okay, this is where my content plan exists. These are the people who are in charge of it and if I do need to go back and start auditing things to make sure that they make sense in the new context, I know how to do that quickly. I know how to step in and start getting that process rolling without necessarily having to send a whole bunch of time scrambling first."

Marie Parks:
Absolutely. So stay tuned to the next episode because that's where we're going to be giving you a three step framework for specifically responding to an unstable situation through your content specifically, but in preparation for that and for any unstable situation that might arise in your life or the world or anything in between, your homework then is to go ahead and take some time and take a look at these four aspects, your brand values, your stakeholders, your audience, and your content plan, and go ahead and take some time, think through it. If you need to have conversations with your team, go ahead and have those. Set a meeting time on your calendar with yourself if you even need it to cover this so that you're going to be very prepared and that the three-step framework that we're going to talk about next time, it'll still work. It's still going to take some effort for you, but you will have already laid a lot of the groundwork.

Jessi Honard:
Absolutely. So at the very least write those four things down. Write down your immediate thoughts and responses to them, and then if you have a team, bring that to them because they may have some insights that you didn't think of right away. And it's always useful to make sure that everyone is on board, especially when we're focused on that compassionate content that really strikes the right chord when we are trying to re-stabilize a little bit after things become uncertain.

Marie Parks:
Exactly. All right. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Make sure to visit our website northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi Honard:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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