Screening checklist for crisis response emails

Scott Burdsall

4 minute read

As part of your crisis management email marketing revaluation, you might have to add some qualitative review questions to your campaign pre-deployment and quality-checking process. Besides checking for typos, broken links and call-to-action button copy, you should audit your content to make sure you’re keeping your customers’ interests in the forefront and not inadvertently offending with ill-timed or tone-deaf content.

These questions can help:

1. Does my content answer “WIIFM?”

“WIIFM” means “What’s in it for me?” Or, bluntly, “So what?” You can say yes to this question if your copy focuses more on the benefits of the product that its individual features – or on the benefits of any changes you have to make to accommodate COVID requirements. When you get right down to it, customers are all about themselves, so meet them where they are and remind them – overtly or subtly – why their lives are better because they buy from you.

2. Does my email address the customer’s perspective?

This goes back to the CEO reassurance letters from the early days of the pandemic as companies were scrambling to figure out their next steps. Most talked about company priorities, but you need to ensure you make it about the customer and what impacts them.

3. Is there a  clear takeaway or immediate next step?

These are key questions for any kind of crisis email, whether it’s pandemic-driven operational changes, a data breach, store closings or other out-of-routine event. Many CEO letters offered no links back to the website, no FAQs, not even a phone number. Always give your customers a way to connect with you no matter how tenuous it might appear.

4. Am I backing up our position/decision with evidence or facts? Do not assume your customers feel the same way that you do so be prepared to justify it. 

This is another crisis-driven question that also belongs in your business-as-usual emails. Your customers are not a monolithic block of people with the same values, wants, needs and fears, and they don’t necessarily share any of yours. Something as simple as assuming everyone will be happy to wear a mask in your stores can turn out to be a disaster. Feel free to state your values and expectations, but take the time to explain why it matters.

5. Does this problem affect my relationship with my subscribers?

Why would you explain procedural changes in depth to people who are not affected by them? That was one of the questions we had about many pandemic-related emails. If you combined physical, virtual or remote locations for your workforce, create segments that relate to these different levels of contact and send only the information people in each segment need to know to do business safely and securely with you.

6. Does this email accurately target customers at the point in the conversion funnel that’s most important to me right now?

Ad spending and resource allocation are hot topics among marketers as they prepare for the next rounds of holiday spending and budget construction. Many brands hit hard by shutdowns, such as retail, sports, events and travel, have had to redo their conversion funnels, a move that also impacts the email messages they send. 

Has your brand shifted resources to top-of-funnel activities like awareness and acquisition or is it looking to shore up lower-funnel moves like supporting buying decisions and building up conversions and retention? Email works at every level of the funnel, so make sure you align to the hot spots in the customer journey that are the priority.

7. Do I absolutely have to send this email right now? 

When you’re in crisis mode, the rule of thumb about when to hit “send” should follow how soon the conditions you describe in your email will affect your customers. Are you shutting down or reopening stores? Hit “send.” Discussing new procedures that are several steps away from conversion? Maybe drop that in the queue for now.

8. Does this email explain all the ways my customers can do business with me?

The pandemic took a popular but still niche concept – in-store merchandise pickup – and turned it into a must-do, along with its even more social distanced cousin, the curbside pickup. Customers who worry about being in crowded stores might be willing to buy online and then dash in for quick pickups or wait at the curb so they can get their hands on their purchases faster than even one-day Amazon Prime. 

The return of installment payment programs like AfterPay and contactless payments can also make your brand more attractive, and email is the right place to promote them.

9. Does this content truly reflect my brand’s value proposition, core values, and/or vision?

Surveys about brand trust, like Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer study, have shown a steady rise in the numbers of consumers who will do business with brands they trust. Millennials and Generation Z consumers are on records about preferring to buy from brands whose values align with theirs, but they aren’t the only ones: 72% of Americans say they feel it is more important than ever that the companies they buy from reflect their values.  

The upshot is that if your campaign feels out of tune with the Three Vs (value proposition, core values and company vision), it probably won’t resonate with the customers who buy from you because of that triumvirate of qualities. 

Is your email program ready for the next big disruption? Download our full white paper to find out. 

Trendline Interactive

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About the Author(s)

Scott Burdsall

Scott Burdsall is the Practice Lead, Strategy Consulting at Trendline Interactive, where he focuses on creating messaging and segmentation strategies to drive maximum conversions while maintaining a strong focus on the optimal omni channel user experience. He has 13 years of email marketing and product management experience, creating and maintaining programs for both B2C and B2B audiences and overseeing everything from day-to-day campaign management to platform migrations. Scott graduated from The University of Iowa and lives outside of Chicago, Illinois with his wife and two children. Scott enjoys music, running, and fixing up old bikes in his spare time. Follow Scott on LinkedIn

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