3 Agile Digital Marketing Methods to Plan for a Crisis Response

Wednesday, 22 April 2020  |  Posted in: Most Recent, News  |  8min read

While the response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic will be analysed from every angle in the years to come what is already emerging is the importance of simple and timely communication and the effect it can have on calming and preparing the community (or not).

The stakes might not be as high for an individual business but understanding how to adapt your communication efforts during a crisis can be the difference between you looking in control and pro-active as opposed to scrambling day-to-day reactively as the situation changes around you.

While this current crisis has exposed what can happen with a weak or nonexistent crisis communication plan it is important to remember that this will not be the last major disruption to the ability of businesses to supply products or services to customers. The next crisis might be another global event or it might be closer to home like a breakdown in your business’s supply chain or catastrophic failure in your website’s functionality or availability. Learning from the current situation and developing a crisis communication plan will help you prepare for the next time your business has critical information to provide to your clients, stakeholders and/or customers.

Here are our top 3 recommendations for implementing a digital marketing response when planning for, or facing, a crisis situation.

1. Create resources to ensure a quick response in crisis situations

When a critical situation arises, one of the top priorities is informing your audience of what is happening and how you are responding – especially if it affects their ability to contact you or interact with your products or services. Whether it’s a simple shift in work hours or a complex change in your company’s way of operating, you need to be prepared to communicate new messages widely and quickly.

Customer Response Matrix

During a crisis it can sometimes be hard to work out what the best response should be, a response matrix can help you quickly roll out training to staff to help them provide the best possible response to any enquiry. This is possible by categorising the message and then providing guidance for managing it. For example, is the customer message a question or a statement? Is it positive, neutral or negative in tone? Is it general or specific in nature? Compiling these sorts of questions into a matrix can help you quickly roll out the best response.

There are lots of examples online, such as this one from Melissa Agnes, CEO of the Crisis Ready Institute that can be used as a starting point for your own response matrix.

Customer Service Email Templates

During a crisis your Customer Service teams, particularly your online teams, are going to be inundated with questions. It is important to keep these teams as free as possible though as they need to be proving support to your existing customers and acting proactively to help them through whatever the situation might be. Never forget that 80% of your profits are likely to come from 20% of your existing clients.

Quickly identifying the common questions and generating email templates that answer them can prevent these specialists from typing the same text repeatedly. Allowing them to focus their efforts on providing support and service to your existing customers.

Even though it’s impossible to create a template for every crisis situation, you can at least be ready to answer standard requests and add to your templates as needed, as you find out more about the developing situation and your customers’ needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Another way to deal with common questions is to answer them before they have been asked with useful tools such as an FAQ.

As customers flock to your website to find your phone number or contact form, providing them with up to date information in the form of an FAQ can help prevent the question being asked in the first place, leaving your staff more time to continue implementing the response and engaging more meaningfully with existing and potential customers.

We are seeing may companies now forcing an FAQ or a Community Help Forum into the way of customers looking for contact information. While it is not normally a good idea for you to break the customer experience in this way a time of crisis calls for an appropriate change in direction and answering a question before it is answered ultimately lets you handle the crisis and get back to normal quicker.

As an added benefit, an extensive FAQ section can do wonders for your SEO efforts. The bigger your FAQ section is, the more keywords and internal links you can use organically.


Chatbots are very quickly finding a role in both crisis and standard communication plans due to their ability to triage enquiries. As a Chatbot can probe the customer about their concern or question they can redirect that customer quickly to the correct information or to the best possible contact person for their enquiry.

For example, one sector that has made great use of Chatbots to triage enquiries are health funds. By answering very simple questions a Chatbot can take what would have been a web form and subsequent email to a generic inbox, which would have then had to been forwarded internally before a response could be formulated and manage it much more efficiently. Plan pricing enquiries can be directed to the appropriate web content, preventing the question being asked in the first place, and an enquiry about a recent claim can be funnelled directly to the appropriate team.

Did you know that The Digital Embassy has built its own cross-platform Chatbot solution? Click here if you are interested in finding out more.

2. Develop an iterative process to successfully adapt to changes

Good marketers work iteratively to keep track of what is, and is not, working and adjust accordingly, a version of this is referred to as Agile Marketing. Like other Agile work practices, Agile Marketing is based on a basic work structure that works particularly well in a crisis situation.

First is Sprints. Break your marketing team into discreet project groups and provide them with tasks. Tasks need to be time-bound so consider how much time and resources a task might need and allocate accordingly. A single team member might be in many groups so you will need to make sure they are not overloaded and each task will also need a leader to be accountable for progress.

In order to manage that progress, you should have Daily Meetings where task leaders can report on what has happened in the last 24 hours and what will happen in the next 24 hours. If the crisis is evolving in real-time you may wish to increase the frequency of these meetings but the point is that all tasks keep progressing and all task leaders know what resources are available. These are also a great time for other stakeholders to contribute information that might help the team better adapt what they are doing.

Finally, you need somewhere public and obvious to track progress. This might be a physical whiteboard or a digital tool like Trello, but whatever it is your internal team needs to be able to see it and see what is progressing and what is falling behind.

Supporting an Agile Marketing system can be daunting initially but it is a great way to focus your attention in a crisis.

3. Outsource your digital marketing to a specialist

In order to remain on top of your digital marketing, or any other part of your business, during a crisis, it might be time to call in some help. As a web agency, we have seen a lot of requests recently to help with tasks, both big and small, to help our clients manage their response and communication around the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. From rolling out small banners on websites to writing FAQs or developing social advertising plans to take advantage of dropping advertising prices, we have been heavily involved in the responses of many of our clients.

When it comes to marketing your business in a crisis situation, knowledge and vast experience are paramount. Due to the extremely sensitive nature of situations like the one at hand, all business communication and marketing activity needs to be done with utmost care and respect.


The current crisis is creating significant disruption to the way individuals work, the ways companies do business and the ways we all interact with companies we rely on but, putting in place or activating a crisis plan now could help protect you in the short-term to help you recover in the longer-term.

For assistance with your digital strategy and marketing communications, our team is here to help. If you have extra ongoing requirements over this time, consider using our Block Hours to help you meet your needs. In response to this global disruption, we have expanded our Block Hours to now cover all of the services we offer, so our clients can increase their flexibility and resilience.

Contact us today if you would like to learn more about how we can help during this period.

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