Marketing During Disasters: What’s in Your Digital “Go Kit”?

Every year at this time, marketers sit down to plan out their annual initiatives – launches, campaigns, events. But one category is noticeably missing from most lists – marketing’s crisis response plan. There is a lesson to be learned from the massive business disruptions caused by natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy.

I know from past experience that most b-to-b organizations have a business continuity plan that lays out how IT operations and business functions are brought back on line after an outage. Priority is given to “mission critical” systems; unfortunately, marketing, and its ability to reach customers, is usually an afterthought. Since so many of our interactions with key audiences occur digitally, it’s important to be proactive about maintaining the flow of communications, particularly for companies providing b-to-b services.

Your business continuity planners may have asked for an action plan with contact information, assigned responsibilities and chain of command for decisionmaking. They may even have asked which marketing systems are essential to the business. (If they haven’t, find out why not!) But what else should you consider?

Disaster preparedness agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommend having a personal “go kit” in case of emergency; the contents should include important documents, supplies and a first-aid kit. For a business, an urgent situation can range from evacuation of the premises to addressing service outages to service-level-agreement disruptions with your customers. What should you have in your disaster go kit? Brainstorm about what you can prepare now and what you can have ready if needed.

Here are a couple of content ideas to get the ball rolling:

  • Design a banner that can be added to your Web site to direct customers and employees to status updates or time-of-disaster FAQs.
  • If you already have helpful tools or information, don’t bury them several pages deep. Have a plan to pull them front and center.
  • Provide quick links for easy access to support.
  • Consider how you will optimize for mobile – during Sandy’s aftermath, mobile devices were the only means of communications in some areas.
  • Make sure the tone of content is helpful and respectful; companies that extend a helping hand during trying times enjoy much greater customer loyalty.

Corporate marketing may be ultimately responsible for the crisis communications plan, but other stakeholders – product/solution marketing, marketing ops, demand creation, customer marketing – should also think about how to keep operations running smoothly during a disaster. Let’s discuss – what’s in your plan?

About the Author

Pat McAnally is Research Director, Portfolio Marketing, at SiriusDecisions. She is a seasoned marketing executive with more than 20 years of experience in product and solutions marketing and management, sales enablement, thought leadership and analyst relations. Follow Pat on Twitter @patmcanally


2 Comments

  • Rob, 12th February 2013 at 10:07 am

    Reply

    Great post, Pat. Your readers may be interested in this eBook we published a couple of months ago: Lessons from Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email Messaging (http://pages.monetate.com/lessons-from-sandy-ebook).

  • Michele Moyer, 1st March 2013 at 5:55 am

    Reply

    Some great ideas here Pat and Rob. See also Iron Mountain’s “Natural Disasters and Other Business Interruptions,” for things to consider regarding your fulfillment provider’s disaster preparedness (http://bit.ly/15QWCKL)

    For instance:
    – Seek a fulfillment partner with more than one facility, so that they can transfer your data and business seamlessly to another location if they one you currently use is damaged or destroyed
    – Proactively discuss options for keeping your marketing communications flowing in the event of a business interruption at the facility you currently use
    – Ask if they can produce your collateral using digital print-on-demand if your physical inventory is damaged or destroyed or deliver your communications electronically if physical shipping is disrupted


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