• nat sharp

Communicating your business lockdown story

6 months in and I’m still fascinated and inspired by stories of how so small independent businesses changed their businesses overnight to survive.

This picture was taken at Trevaskis Farm whilst I was staying in Cornwall this Summer. To me, their story was particularly moving. They are a family-owned business run by 2 brothers who had to think on their feet to keep the business afloat when they were forced to close their restaurant for 15 weeks. Overnight they lost their most important source of income and were thinking how to overcome letting go dozens of local people they employed. We’ve all seen how hard it has been for the hospitality industry and the importance of diversification and the ability to offer home delivery services has truly come into its own. However, Trevaskis Farm went a stage further. They set out not only to survive but also to do their bit and support vulnerable groups in their local community by creating a food delivery service to the shielding community.

As I sat in the recently opened restaurant at Trevaskis Farm enjoying one of their tremendous burgers and my first meal out since lockdown, I was both humbled and inspired by their story of survival and how far they had come since March. I was also impressed with how they had taken the chance to tell their story in a printed leaflet on each of the tables customers we were sitting. Simple but effective. It was a truly personable account from the business owner. Communicating their experience in such a way was highly effective and a great demonstration of how the right message delivered in an appropriate environment can create strong brand affinity. People are always interested in the people behind the business and it was an honest account of their lockdown journey.

What is your lockdown story? Have you taken the chance to communicate your survival tips to your customers? You could communicate this across channels starting with writing a blog post for your website and then share on social media. You could also send a letter to all your customers. Or if you have an interesting story to tell, why not approach the local press?

Jess Morgan PR expert from Carnsight Communication gives her top tips.

1. Human interest stories

Stories that tie in with the news agenda are much more likely to be picked up, so lockdown business changes have been particularly newsworthy. We launched a new lockdown business, for example, that was able to get a national profile because it was a total pivot (the founder went from financial advisor to cocktail entrepreneur). Remember, people are interested in the stories behind the news, more than the news itself.

2. Sharing the solution

Sharing a true picture of what has happened and what changes have been made is key. Ensure you show the solution and resolution to any challenges you may have faced.

A common mistake is making a business faceless by not showing the people behind it. Sometimes small businesses fear this does not give the appearance of scale. But, by sharing a bit about the team behind your venture, you can actually make more of an impact. People are more willing to come along on your journey if they know who you are.

Likewise, many businesses have had to overcome logistics issues such as supply chain problems during the crisis. Being upfront with customers about what has happened, how it's affected things and how you're working to resolve these issues is a good idea. Just remember, you don't need to overshare on every communication - different channels do different jobs, so tailor your messages.

3. Adapting the message for crisis communications

Whilst you might want to share the full story in internal communications, for example, often external communications (particularly crisis communications) are about being factual and to the point. People are happy to know the circumstances but then would like to know when to expect their goods and how to get in touch with you for more information.

Carnsight and Sharp Thinking have worked together for clients on crisis communication throughout the pandemic. A series of well written timely communication carefully crafted for the audience have been common. It can be daunting for a business to make a statement, particularly if there are delays or service disruptions, but honesty is always the best policy.

Evolve your story

As we've now been surviving this pandemic for half a year, ensure your story is topical and relevant. This is particularly important for PR. And don't think it is too late to do something. Jess Morgan however advises if you're looking to undertake some PR, the news agenda has moved on to the 'new normal' or fears of a second wave so lockdown stories need to have relevance to the present.

Everything is changing all the time and your customers will want the reassurance that you are on top of the situation. Ensure content is up to date and shared across relevant channels. Try and make it as specific as possible and whilst it needs to be formal and informative the personal touch is always important.

So whatever your lockdown story has been, I’m sure your customers and followers would be interested to hear about it. And keeping a record will be an interesting chapter in the history of your business and an interesting record for future generations to enjoy and marvel at!

For more marketing tips, see communicating in a crisis and how can businesses adapt during the coronavirus and 5 ways to keep ahead of your competitors.

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