Submarines, Ponies and Locomotives… Oh My: Communicating in Crisis


By Chad Jordan, Vice President of Business Development, Brands, SOCi Inc.

In the blink of an eye, our world has certainly changed. Like Dorothy told Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore. And from the look of it, we aren’t going back anytime soon. In fact, when we do get back to the new normal, most of what we have known for so long will have changed. The way we work, the way we shop, the way we gather together and more will most likely have shifted to some version of an altered reality we couldn’t have anticipated just a short while ago.

So how we market, how we advertise, how we communicate must adapt as well. Let’s be honest, marketing and advertising in the midst of this feels kind of silly, right? And not just silly, almost insensitive, even, dare I say, icky. But what is marketing, really? What is advertising? It’s communication. Marketing is messaging. So right now, through this, we have to continue communicating. We have to do our marketing through keeping our clients and employees well informed.

We’re seeing a few types of marketing coming out of companies right now.

  • You’ve got the companies that have gone completely dark. I call these companies the submarines. They have shut everything down and submerged for the duration of this Social Distancing Quarantine. We are not hearing ANYTHING from these companies, nothing on social media, no emails about their operations, nothing.
  • Then you’ve got the companies that are still continuing to message as if nothing has changed. I call these companies the one-trick ponies, because they are committed to the marketing plan they put together for 2020, and they are NOT budging from it. For example, their social media approach is stagnant. At best, they might have adjusted the verbiage a smidge to incorporate Social Distancing, but aside from that, it’s business as usual.

But the companies that will survive this crisis are the ones that will adapt and put out the right messaging, at the right time, on the right channels.

  • So there is another strategy that is needed in a time like this. I call it the locomotive strategy. A locomotive is the engine, the lead car of a train. It’s the one that sees the light at the end of the tunnel before anyone else and calls out, whistles out, signals to everyone else the way ahead, pulling the other cars, dragging folks along for the ride if necessary.

Social media is an essential aspect of communicating in the current situation. The point of your social media activity is not about driving business right now. That’s essentially out the window for most companies. Social media’s major impact through this is building the community that will sustain you and revitalize you once this crisis is over.

Let me repeat that point: social media will help you build the community that will help you rebuild your company, and much more quickly than you could have otherwise. So the longer you wait to jump on the social media train, the harder you will find it to create the community you’ll need down the line. If you take nothing else away from this article, please remember this: your social media efforts through this crisis can make or break your recovery from this crisis.

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