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How to Communicate With Students During Times of Crisis

Whether it’s a global issue like COVID-19 or a local emergency, businesses must have a crisis communication plan in place for their customers. This goes beyond minor adjustments to marketing messages. The plan must extend to customer service teams, your website, social channels, customer-facing staff, and more.

While we often can’t control the societal crisis at hand, we can control our response to it.

Here are tips to help you formulate a plan that communicates the impact of a situation and next-steps to your students.

  1. Show that you care. People seek connection during times of uncertainty. Consider a message to students to show you’re aware of the issue and offer helpful resources. Social media, email, or your online community are particularly accessible mediums for a brief and immediate message.
  2. Be proactive in your communications. Your students count on you even more than usual during a crisis. Proactively announce changes or impacts to your business. Do not make customers hunt for the information they need – instead, bring it to them.
    Create communication that is appropriate within a variety of channels, including email, SMS, push notifications, social, IVR systems, chatbot introductions, homepage modals, and headers, and dedicated web landing pages (we can help you). Establish a parallel approach designed to inform students and employees in equal measure as appropriate.
  3. Inspire your audience. In times of need, those who are not affected are often in a position to assist others. You can be a catalyst by allowing corporate citizenship to shine. Do all you can to help. Share a donor portal; communicate your philanthropic position; assist with collection coordination; donate products, services, money, or time; and communicate how your brand’s community can get involved.
  4. Audit your content queue. Review your entire messaging stream, including social media, promotional and transactional emails, push notifications, and SMS, to identify communications that need to pause or shift as a result of the situation. Otherwise, there is a risk of damaging your brand if a message comes off as insensitive, incorrect or seeking to capitalize on a tragedy.

These communications must be an institute-wide effort. Develop a cross-functional “Go Team” with experts from public relations, social, email, mobile, website, design, data/IT, philanthropy, stores/field, logistics, supply chain, and customer service to coordinate teams and efforts. 

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