Online crisis communication checklist for businesses: How to manage your digital presence and keep your customers updated

Online crisis communication checklist for businesses: How to manage your digital presence and keep your customers updated

Use this guide to help you address the uncertainty, share important information, and keep connected with your customers


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are adjusting to a lot of big changes in a very short period of time.

For almost all of us, this is definitely a case of business as UNusual. Keep reading to find practical tips on how to handle your business’ online presence during today’s climate.

How your customers are feeling

Your customers are probably asking themselves all kinds of questions, like if you have the usual products available, if shipping times have changed, or if you’re even open for business at all.

If you’re wondering the best way to explain all of these new changes to your customers, you’re not alone. It can be especially hard when you’re feeling like you haven’t got your own head around them yet!

The most important thing is to not close yourself off as you navigate these challenging times. It’s your job right now to keep the communication channels wide open. Transparency is key during a crisis, and your customers will love you for it—both now and after life gets back to normal.

How we can help

As a digital marketing agency that’s been in business for almost 16 years, we’ve seen our fair share of ups and downs. One thing is for sure: this is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges that we (and many of our clients) have faced in recent years.

We understand everything you’re going through, and we’re all in this together! That’s why we’ve created this online crisis communication checklist to help you.

Keep reading as we break down the essential online crisis communication steps your business should follow across your digital marketing channels. Use the points below to help you address the uncertainty, share important information, and keep connected with your customers as you journey through this challenging time together.

Local business listings

  • If your hours of operation have changed, make sure you update them on your Google My Business listing and any other online listings you use.
  • You can also create a post on your Google business listing to share important information and to answer recent FAQs. These posts show up in Google Search and on Google Maps and are live for seven days.
  • Consider using this time to make sure your online listings are up to date, by adding new photos and updating your service information. Here’s a guide on how to do it.
  • Please note: Google is currently prioritizing edits critical to health-related businesses. Some users may experience delays for all edit types. If you are creating a post about business updates related to COVID-19, you can now create a “COVID-19 update”, which will be featured more prominently on your Google My Business listing.

Your business website

  • Update your hours of operation as needed.
  • Add relevant information to your FAQ section. For example, you could address common questions about how your business practices are adapting to restrictions due to the current COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Consider adding a dedicated page about the crisis, outlining the situation for your customers and sharing all the up-to-date information they may need.
  • If you have an e-commerce website, make sure you update any changes to product availability, shipping, customer service response times, and return policies.
  • Consider adding a resource section with helpful, free content that can help your customers. Focus on your areas of expertise to provide relevant, timely content that informs and educates your audience.

Social media 

  • Use your social media platforms to provide value: share useful tools and provide free resources that are related to your areas of expertise. Your guiding principle should be to be as helpful as possible to your customers in this time of need.
  • Keep your customers informed about any important changes to your business that will affect them.
  • Do not share information from questionable/unknown sources regarding the crisis.
  • Always communicate clearly and with a tone that’s appropriate to the situation. Aim to be a source of happiness and positivity in your customers’ lives.
  • Do not attempt to capitalize on the COVID-19 pandemic by creating promotions that take advantage of the situation.
  • You can still promote your products and services (especially if you have an e-commerce website or have a service that people need now more than ever) but be sensitive in your approach.
  • Check your visuals are appropriate and relevant with the current reality.
  • Depending on your business, you could share content that offers your followers some light distraction and entertainment, as a moment of relief from the overwhelming amount of coronavirus-related content that’s circulating.
  • You can find more general social media tips here.

Email marketing

  • If the way you serve your customers has changed, send out company updates to keep them informed. Make it as personal and sincere as possible by framing your updates as a message from the founder, CEO or president of the company.
  • Show how you can be a valuable information source for your customers and your community during this unprecedented time by sharing links to your free resources.
  • You can and should still send emails about products and services but, again, be sensitive.
  • If you send automated emails through a customer relationship management (CRM) system, revisit them to make sure the tone, content and visuals match the current climate.

Content marketing 

Use this time to stay productive! Create, or work with your marketing team to create, relevant content that can be used both now and later, when business gets back to normal.

Content ideas include:

  • Blog posts (you can find topic ideas here)
  • Checklists
  • E-books
  • Motion graphics videos
  • Scripts for videos
  • Powerpoint presentations
  • Webinars.

Virtual meetings

Many businesses are turning to technology to stay connected with their customers. With video conferencing software like Zoom, you can hold virtual meetings, host webinars, and even invite guests to a virtual happy hour!

You could also consider offering your services virtually during this time. Because face-to-face meetings and on-site visits are not possible right now, think about offering new customers a virtual consultation to help them get up and running.

By communicating clearly, staying positive and being true to your message, you’ll allay your customers’ fears as you navigate this challenging time together. Plus, you’ll build a stronger relationship with them that will endure long after the crisis is over.

We really hope you found this guide useful. If there are any questions or concerns we can help you with, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

More resources for you
Free download: Marketing audit checklist
How to write a marketing strategy in 6 simple steps
Free resource: 2020 marketing calendar template, plus 15 great promotion ideas

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