Unspoken Rules of Mobile Marketing In A Crisis

Earlier this week, the nation stood by and watched triumph turn to tragedy at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. As news trickled out, many turned to social networks to learn more, and to share their feelings. And that’s when the advertising and marketing posts showed up. You know, the tweets and emails that companies, large and small, had pre-scheduled hours or days before the bombs went off. While the world was watching their communication channels for news, these ill-timed missives were chirping about new earrings, lunch specials and discounts on electronics.

In this day and age of real-time marketing, consumers have developed an expectation of, well, real-time marketing. They expect the brands they engage with to understand what they are going through and in times of crisis, to be going through it as well. For social marketers, this means turn off the scheduled auto-tweets. For email marketers, it means taking a closer look at your lead stories and headlines, and timing to ensure previously innocuous words won’t hurt you when received in context of a crisis. But what does it mean for mobile marketers?



First, we have to divide our audience into two types of mobile marketers: news/media companies and everyone else. 

News, media and entertainment companies have mobile subscriber databases to keep interested parties up to date with breaking news stories.  For these customers, the best practices of messaging during a crisis includes:

  1. Promote your news alerts text program:  If you have a breaking news alert mobile program, now is the time to promote it. Consumers want information, make it easy and promote your keyword and short code across all possible platforms – on air, online, social and more.

  2. Add multimedia:  Include photos or video within your news alerts.  And image is worth 1,000 words and a video is worth so much more. In times of crisis, multimedia can help better explain a story better than text can

  3. Be comprehensive:  Include a link to more information for subscribers who want to read everything possible.

  4. Rethink sponsors: Consider removing your sponsors from these messages.  Many news messaging includes sponsor information so this is a good time to take a second look at your sponsors to ensure they are a fit for the news you are sharing.

But what are the best practices if you are not a media property?  What if you are a retailer or a restaurant or a consumer brand?

  1. Consider pausing your messaging: Unless your messaging is to support an event that cannot be changed, consider halting messaging until the crisis has passed.  Remember that your text will be received among many others from friends and family – don’t be the jerk selling ice in a snowstorm.

  2. Send to only those outside the affected area: If you do want to send out texts, consider removing those mobile database members in affected areas.  This leaves their phones open for communications with friends and family.

  3. Send to only those in the affected area: Launching a program or a special on the ground effort for those in the affected area?  Sort your text list by geographic region and send a note out to just those subscribers. 

  4. Enhance your message with multimedia:  Again, use multimedia to express your ideas and thoughts. In a time of crisis, words may resonate as hollow while an image or video has potential for deeper impact. Plus, MMS messaging is an all-in-one content delivery system. It does not rely on your customer’s having access to Wi-Fi or cellular data to view images, video, maps and more.

Messaging during times of crisis is a balancing act of understanding your customers’ needs and reactions and your program goals. Be respectful and lead with a customer-first program and you’re program will continue to drive success, even in times of crisis.

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