As the world becomes more interconnected, the ability for information to flow more freely continues to increase. That same dynamic of connectivity also means that one particular disaster or crisis can have far-reaching effects, resulting in blunders or problems quickly spiralling out of control.

While some disasters require physical responses in the real world, others are inherently digital in nature – or at least require digital action. For brands and businesses with established mailing lists, reaching out to audiences for a variety of purposes during a crisis – whether it be to warn them, apologies to them, or any other important action – is a seemingly simple task.

However, handling the situation properly is crucial to achieving the desired effects. To help ensure that, here are 6 tips that will help brands successfully navigate a crisis through their email marketing prowess.

Optimize Your Email’s Subject Line, Preview Text & Body

Before any brand can begin sending crisis emails, it is imperative to consider the format of the email(s) in question. To ensure that your campaign is noticeable, succinct, and professional, proper planning has to occur. This can be particularly difficult during any crisis – as many will happen suddenly, meriting a quick response – which is why planning before any such disaster is recommended.

Your email subject line ultimately determines the tone and sentiment of your communication. In the event of a natural disaster or catastrophe, conveying as much crucial information as possible via the subject line and the preview text could help avoid discomfort, prevent injuries, or even save lives.

Additionally, optimizing the body of your crisis email to convey the most critical information in an easy-to-read format is paramount. Whether it’s via the use of bullet points, bolding or other prime formatting choices, make each relevant email as easy to digest as possible.

Stick to Text Wherever Possible

Ensuring as many people as possible read your crisis email is a top priority. While this is technically a primary goal in any email marketing campaign, the need to achieve this result becomes vital during a crisis. As such, avoiding tactics – such as using image-only messages – is highly recommended.  Text is a vital tool, anyone who uses programmes such as Google SEO news will understand the key benefits.  

Individual subscribers who have images disabled in their email clients (as well as screen readers) won’t be able to easily read your messages. Given that many people prefer text-only emails, this combination of factors should make it clear that text is superior when navigating a crisis situation.

Ditch the Traditional Marketing Ploys

Whether your brand is navigating a PR crisis or you’re communicating with followers in the wake of a disaster, it’s important to be straightforward, honest, and trustworthy. Businesses and brands are naturally viewed with skepticism by many when trying to position themselves as caring or thoughtful entities: the last thing you want to do is reinforce such beliefs by attempting to engage in marketing strategies within crisis emails.

This means no calls to action, no advertising, and no promoting the brand’s self-interests over that of the crisis itself. Some acceptable CTAs in crisis emails include encouraging readers to donate to a charitable organization assisting with disaster relief (in the event of a non-PR crisis), but if you’re trying to apologize or otherwise change the narrative about your own brand, avoid any marketing whatsoever in the initial email.

Tap into Proper Tone and Emotion

Regardless of the type of crisis, responding via email with a message that creates a positive impression while avoiding any negative connotations is essential. This is why tone and emotion matter so much in email copy during a crisis.

It’s almost never acceptable to use jokes or humor in a crisis email. Depending on the crisis, your tone may be somber, apologetic, or inspiring – but it should always convey a sense of professionalism.

Be Conservative with Segments and Targeting

Some crises require an all-hands-on-deck approach, mandating all subscribers are notified for maximum damage control, safety or goodwill, depending on the exact crisis.

However, not every crisis will necessitate contacting every segment of your subscriber base. A “local” disaster impacting one specific region probably doesn’t require sending emails to a global subscriber base.

Additionally, there may be benefits to creating customized emails for various segments, depending on the crisis situation. For instance, including points of contact for assistance that are localized will produce more relevant results and benefits for your subscribers.

Review Scheduled Campaigns

Crises can happen at a moment’s notice: how brands respond determine their skill and merit. Yet too all often, brands forget about preexisting campaigns and scheduled emails that could appear insensitive during a crisis (click here to see examples of terribly-timed PR blunders).

This is why reviewing all scheduled email campaigns in the wake of any crisis is critical. Even before you send a crisis email, reviewing these planned campaigns can help avoid creating (or further fueling) a PR disaster.

Navigating the stormy sea of crisis response is stressful for any brand, but getting the basics right via email marketing can be accomplished with finesse. These 6 tips can help guide any post-crisis response, whether it is one of your brand’s own doing or one completely independent from it.

Terry Clark
Author: Terry Clark