Communicating in a Crisis: Thoughts from ESC

By Marjorie Bauer, Debra Yanofsky, Gabriele Loebbert, and Janice Dolnick


We hope you are all healthy, safe and sound during this unprecedented time of social distancing and virtual service delivery. While marketing is about the last thing you want to think about during a crisis like COVID-19, the need to communicate to all your stakeholders, including clients, staff and donors, is more critical now than ever. While each of you will have some unique needs to address, we thought it would be helpful to share some general communication guidelines to keep in mind as we navigate from initial crisis response to “re-entry” over the next few months and then to the “new normal”.

Communication Guidelines

Many ESC clients have already been communicating with their stakeholders since the crisis unfolded in March. Some basics to keep in mind going forward:

  1. Be current: Ensure that your website and all social media sites are updated to be relevant.
    • At a minimum, acknowledge the situation so it’s clear your website is current
    • Include updated contact information, if normal channels are not available
    • Describe how you are now offering your services and what services may be paused
  2. Be informative: Keep your stakeholders informed about what’s happening in your organization via straightforward and caring communications on all platforms
  3. Be helpful: Determine how you can offer some kind of explicit help to your communities during the crisis and connect that to your brand message. For example, you might share additional resources that your constituency can access.
  4. Be confident: Reinforce long-term sustainability of your mission and value to the community
  5. Be benefit oriented: Communicate specific benefits to stakeholders as a result of actions taken. For example, expanded hours provide more access to critical services.

Messaging Topics

  • Stay safe and healthy and spread the word about social distancing (create ways to convince others to do the same)
  • Services are continuing uninterrupted or in a new or different format
  • Our impact remains strong throughout the crisis
  • Demonstrate steps you’ve taken that show organizational flexibility
  • Encourage donors to support the organization


  • Be realistic and forward thinking
  • Use a fact-based/educational approach
  • Be empathetic and reassuring
  • Be inspiring

How ESC Can Help

ESC has a number of consultants that can help organizations on a variety of issues during the COVID crisis. Some of these include:

  • Applying for PPP assistance
  • Fund raising strategies during a crisis
  • Engaging your board in a crisis
  • Communications to stakeholders
  • Scenario planning post-crisis

Feel free to email us for a no-cost consultation.