Authentic Brand Communication During Crisis: A Guide for wellness brands

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    BE MORE YOU | BRAND STRATEGIST, DESIGNER & SEO EXPERT

    In recent years, the world has experienced an unprecedented series of crises that have profoundly impacted individuals, communities, and businesses alike. From the global COVID-19 pandemic to refugee crises, wars, and human rights atrocities, it seems we’re constantly navigating brand communication during crisis and turbulent times. As health and wellness professionals, you may feel an overwhelming pressure to pause your business operations to mourn, show respect, or support causes that align with your values.

    This constant state of global upheaval presents a unique challenge for brand communication. On one hand, you have a social responsibility as a brand to acknowledge these events and show empathy. On the other, you have commitments to your clients, audience, employees, and yourself as a business owner to maintain continuity and carry on in the face of adversity.

    Striking the right balance is crucial. Your brand communication during these times can either strengthen your relationships and build trust or potentially damage your reputation if handled insensitively. This is particularly true in the health and wellness sector, where your work directly impacts people’s wellbeing and your audience may look to you for guidance during difficult times.

    A guide to crisis communication for health and wellness brands

    This guide aims to help you navigate the complex landscape of crisis communication while staying true to your brand’s authenticity and values. We’ll explore strategies for responding to global events that demonstrate empathy and social awareness while also fulfilling your professional responsibilities and maintaining the integrity of your business.

    Remember, as a health and wellness professional, your unique perspective and expertise can provide comfort and stability for your audience during uncertain times. Communicating authentically and sensitively can preserve your brand’s reputation and contribute positively to your community’s resilience and wellbeing.

    In the following article, I’ll offer practical steps and considerations for crafting a crisis communication strategy that aligns with your brand’s values, supports your community, and ensures the continuity of your essential work in the health and wellness field.

    1. Prepare Your Crisis Communication Strategy

    If there’s one certainty in business and life, it’s that life won’t always be a bed of roses. Plan ahead for how you will respond in a Crisis. Watch and learn from others about how best to respond in a crisis and choose a route that feels right for your business.

    Align your crisis communication strategy with your brand values in a way that feels authentic to your brand voice.

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    2. Pause and Assess Your Communications

    The second you hear of a looming crisis, you should pause and assess your company communications, both internal and external. The last thing you want is a pre-programmed message that makes you look tone-deaf to the situation.

    Remember, internal communications can easily be leaked into the public domain, so approach every communication at this time as if it could be printed on the front page of a newspaper. If you get it wrong, it very well could be.

    3. Prioritise Accuracy Over Speed

    An article by Business.com stresses that accuracy is paramount. Check your sources and verify your facts first, especially if you have a team working on your behalf. Don’t publish incorrect information because you feel rushed to “get something out there.”

    4. Communicate Early, Often, and Transparently

    Don’t take too long to address the situation; the earlier you respond, the better.

    If your company is the source of the crisis, transparency is vital. In terms of how much information you share, Business advisor and crisis communication specialist Greg Savage says, “I’ve learned that telling people half the story is dangerous. They will invent the missing information.” When it comes to communicating during a crisis very often it’s better to tell them everything, or tell them nothing… “If you are not ready to tell the full story, it’s better to say nothing. Of course, in most situations, it’s better to tell it all early.”

    It’s OK to admit that you don’t have all the information yet, but don’t forget to update people regularly as things change or you have more information. Seek legal advice if appropriate before releasing information.

    5. Take Control of Your Brand’s Narrative

    Following on from the previous point, if the message pertains to a crisis within your business, be proactive and take control of the message. Be honest and open. If you’re working on it, say that. If you need time to come back with more information, offer a timeline. Don’t allow people to create their own narrative based on hearsay and confusion; Offer clear, factual information to prevent misinformation.

    6. Utilise Multiple Communication Channels

    It’s important to repeat your message in different ways and at different times.

    7-figure entrepreneur Marie Forleo was rebuked for her response to the killing of George Floyd in which she silenced members of her B-School during a Q&A session and said: “I did an Instagram post about this”. What started as the killing of a black man at the hands of the police sparked a global conversation around police brutality, systemic racism, and white privilege. Forleo’s 1-post-and-move-on approach failed to address the gravity of the situation. Her audience viewed her as a leader and wanted to see what change she would instigate in her position of power. A single Instagram post wasn’t going to cut it.

    Share company news and responses via social media, emails, and newsletters, but take the time to have genuine conversations with people, staff, suppliers, and customers where possible. Remember that face-to-face communication will always be stronger than email. Token gestures aren’t good enough; ensure you aren’t just offering platitudes—people want to see brands taking positive action.

    7. Lead with Empathy in All Communications

    First and foremost, you should always show empathy for the situation and ensure that your message is focused on that. Consider these two almost identical sentences:

    • It’s important not to forget those affected and proceed with kindness and understanding; we as a business must go on with empathy and sensitivity to those affected.
    • Business must continue, but it’s important not to forget those affected and proceed with kindness and understanding.

    The first detracts from the message because it emphasises the wording “business must go on”. The latter recognises that business must continue but emphasises “not to forget those affected and proceed with kindness and understanding”. If crafting words is not your strength, talk to a copywriter who could help ensure your message isn’t lost or misunderstood because of a grammatical error.

    8. Maintain Authenticity in Your Response

    It can be hard to find the right words in a crisis; if this is the case, don’t ever be afraid to defer to someone who has been able to capture the sentiment better than you can, but be 100% transparent about it.

    Easyjet’s Chief Operating Officer Peter Bellew copied the Irish Prime Minister’s Covid announcement speech almost word-for-word and was criticised when people realised. He attempted to defend himself by saying that the prime minister’s words resonated with him and his team, but saying it after the fact made him look disingenuous. He could have approached the situation by saying. “In these unprecedented times, I do not have the right words to adequately express my feelings for everything that is going on, so I wanted to share the words of Leo Varadkar, who so eloquently expressed everything I am feeling right now….”

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    9. Make Realistic Commitments

    Deliver on commitments that you communicate or don’t make them at all. Failing to follow through on commitments can be your most costly mistake. We all get enthusiastic and want to share positive news, but it is best to remain silent unless you know you can follow through. Not delivering kills credibility as a leader and can cause irreparable damage to the trust your audience and community have in you.

    10. Learn from Mistakes and do better

    If you’ve messed up, apologise and do better next time. If you do get it wrong, the first thing to do is acknowledge that being defensive or avoiding the fact won’t make it go away – it almost always makes it worse. Apologise for your mistake, then lay out your plan for doing better next time. Follow through on that plan!

    11. Assess your response and adapt your plans

    Look back at past times of crisis and how you responded – or didn’t. Could you do better next time? Look at other leaders who responded well and who responded poorly; what can you learn from others about how to respond better in the future? Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better”.

    Having a plan for the future can help you continue to grow and improve under challenging situations, and your audience will thank you for it.

    Conclusion: By approaching crisis communication with authenticity, empathy, and transparency, you can maintain trust with your audience and emerge stronger. Remember, your unique perspective as a health and wellness professional is valuable – don’t be afraid to share your insights and expertise in a way that aligns with your brand and supports your community.

    Balancing Professional Advice with Personal Empathy During Health Crises

    As a health and wellness professional, you have a unique responsibility during health crises. While sharing your expertise is crucial, it’s equally important to demonstrate personal empathy. This balance can be challenging, but it’s essential for maintaining trust and providing genuine support to your audience.

    Start by acknowledging the emotional impact of the crisis before offering professional advice; this shows that you understand the human aspect of the situation. For example, you might say, “I know this is a frightening and uncertain time for many of us. As we navigate these challenges together, I want to share some information that might help.”

    Don’t be afraid to use “I” statements to share personal experiences related to the situation. This can help bridge the gap between professional and personal, making your advice more relatable. However, be careful not to make the situation about you—your anecdotes should serve to support and empathise with your audience.

    When providing information, combine factual content with compassionate language. Instead of just stating facts, explain how this information might affect people’s lives and what it means for them emotionally. This approach demonstrates both your expertise and your understanding of the human impact.

    Finally, offer practical, actionable advice alongside words of comfort and support. People often feel helpless during crises, so giving them concrete steps they can take can be incredibly empowering. Remember, your role is to inform, guide, and support.

    Providing Value During Crises Without Appearing Opportunistic

    As a health and wellness professional, your expertise can be invaluable during crises, but it’s essential to share it in a way that doesn’t seem self-serving. The key is to focus on how your knowledge can help people navigate the crisis rather than on how the crisis can benefit your business.

    Consider offering free resources or advice through blog posts, videos, or live Q&A sessions. By providing value without asking for anything in return, you demonstrate your commitment to your community’s wellbeing.

    If you are promoting services during the crisis, be very clear about how they address specific crisis-related needs. For example, if you’re a nutritionist during a health crisis, you might offer consultations on boosting immune health. Explain exactly how this service can help people during this specific time rather than just promoting it as a general service.

    Collaboration can be a powerful tool during crises. Consider partnering with other professionals or organisations to provide comprehensive support. Strategic partnerships allow you to offer more value to your audience and demonstrate that your primary concern is helping people, not promoting your own business.

    Maintaining Consistent Brand Communication During Crisis

    While crises may require changes in your communication, it’s essential to maintain your brand’s core identity. Your audience should still recognise your brand, even if your message has shifted to address the current situation.

    Keep your visual branding consistent across all crisis communications. Use your usual logos, colours, and fonts. This visual consistency helps maintain a sense of normalcy and reliability during uncertain times.

    You may need to adapt your tone to be more serious if the situation calls for it, but try to maintain your brand’s voice. For example, if your brand is usually light-hearted, you don’t need to suddenly become stilted and corporate-sounding. Instead, you might tone down the humour while maintaining a warm and approachable tone.

    Ensure all team members are aligned on crisis messaging to maintain consistency. Consider creating a crisis communication guide outlining key messages, brand tone of voice, and dos and don’ts to ensure that whether someone reads an email, a social media post, or talks to a team member on the phone, they get a consistent message.

    Use your brand values as a guide for crisis response decisions. Your values should inform how you respond to the crisis, what initiatives you undertake, and how you communicate with your audience. This alignment will help maintain brand consistency even as you adapt to new circumstances.

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    Supporting and Communicating with Staff During Crises

    Internal communication during a crisis is just as important as external messaging. How you treat your staff during difficult times will inevitably reflect on your brand, so handling this aspect with care and consideration is crucial.

    Be transparent with your team about the situation and its potential impacts on the business. Share what you know, what you don’t know, and what steps you’re taking to navigate the crisis. This honesty builds trust and helps reduce anxiety among your staff.

    Provide clear guidelines on how to communicate with clients during the crisis. Your staff are your brand’s front line, so they must understand how to represent your brand’s stance and values during this time. Offer training if necessary to ensure everyone feels confident in their crisis communication skills.

    Don’t forget to offer emotional support and resources to help your staff cope. Consider providing access to counselling services, flexible working arrangements, or simply creating space for team members to share their concerns and feelings. Remember, your staff are humans first, employees second.

    Encourage open dialogue and feedback from your team. They may have helpful ideas about handling the crisis, and if they’re closer to your clients than you are, they may have valuable insights. Creating a culture where everyone feels heard can boost morale and lead to more effective crisis management strategies.

    Using Your Platform Responsibly to Share Accurate Health Information

    As a trusted health and wellness professional, you have a responsibility to share accurate information during health crises. Your platform gives you the power to influence people’s beliefs and behaviour, so wielding this power responsibly is crucial.

    Only share information from reputable sources. Rely on fact-checked information from recognised health organisations, peer-reviewed scientific journals, and established experts in the field. Always verify information before sharing it, even if it comes from a source you generally trust.

    When communicating, clearly differentiate between facts, expert opinions, and your personal views. This transparency helps your audience understand the nature of the information you’re sharing and make informed decisions based on it.

    If you encounter misinformation, take the time to correct it, even if it means admitting your own past mistakes. Your willingness to acknowledge errors and provide correct information will enhance your credibility in the long run.

    Encourage your audience to seek information from official health organisations. While it’s great that they trust you, it’s essential that they also engage with primary sources of health information. This ensures they get the most up-to-date information and helps them develop critical thinking skills about health issues.

    Finally, use your expertise to explain complex health information in accessible terms. Your ability to translate scientific jargon into everyday language is one of the most valuable services you can provide during a health crisis. By making information understandable, you empower your audience to make informed decisions about their health.

    Nailing Your Brand Strategy: The Blueprint for Authentic Communications

    A solid brand strategy is your North Star during both calm and turbulent times. It’s not just about logos and colors; it’s about your core values, your unique voice, and your authentic self. When you have a well-defined, strategy-backed brand, crisis communications become more intuitive and aligned with your overall business goals.

    Your brand strategy should serve as the blueprint for every brand decision, especially during challenging times. It should inform your tone, guide your actions, and help you stay true to your values even when under pressure. An authentic, well-crafted brand strategy will:

    • Ensure consistency across all communications
    • Help you make quick decisions that align with your values
    • Enable your team to represent the brand accurately
    • Resonate more deeply with your audience, building trust and loyalty

    Remember, your brand is more than just your business—it’s a reflection of you. By infusing your authentic self into your brand strategy, you create a solid foundation that can weather any storm.

    Ready to build a brand that stands out authentically? Download my free Standout Brand Guide for expert tips on creating an aligned and distinctive brand that truly represents you and your business. This guide will help you craft a brand strategy that not only sets you apart from the crowd but also serves as your roadmap for consistent, authentic communications—in good times and in crisis.

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    Don’t leave your brand to chance. Equip yourself with the tools to create a brand that’s authentically you and resilient in the face of any challenge. Get your Standout Brand Guide today and start building a brand that truly stands out!

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    Danielle Garber

    Danielle Garber

    Brand designer and strategist with 20 years experience. I create and develop strategically aligned, stand out brands for coaches and consultants in the health & wellness, spiritual & personal development space. I help heart-centred entrepreneurs scale their impact and income through my integrative brand approach that encompasses strategy, design and brand-aligned SEO.

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