4 Themes for Communicating Through a Global Crisis: Perspectives from Marketing

4 Themes for Communicating Through a Global Crisis: Perspectives from Marketing image
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More than one year into a global pandemic, businesses, families, and communities alike are looking back at how the past 12+ months have impacted them from personal, productivity, revenue, and ethical perspectives.

Everyone—from COOs and biologists to parents and interns—was forced to rethink their understanding of operational resiliency, mental health, business strategy, public health, KPIs, and more. When the world seemingly stopped, organizations had to figure out how to keep going. Almost instantly, it seemed every brand across every industry had a statement to make, emphasizing togetherness and unity in ways that often felt insincere. It felt overplayed. It felt forced. In an environment of hyper awareness and information overload, these messages seemed surprisingly lacking in data-driven or helpful information. And, from a marketing perspective, lacking in creativity and authenticity.

In those early weeks of March 2020, as global offices across all industries transitioned to a remote world, our team faced some challenging questions. Business could not and would not continue as usual.

What do our clients need? How do we continue to grow as a company? How do we help our clients to survive? How do we stay true to our brand’s mission and vision?

A new way of operating required a new way of communicating, and everything we did came back to four underlying ideas:

Take a pause

The entire planet was experiencing oversaturation, and between the 24-hour news cycle and an insatiable compulsion for doomscrolling, we admit that even we needed a break.

The first thing we did was pause. We paused our social media posts; we paused our email communications. In a competitive landscape where organizations aim to lead the industry and perform at the top of their game, a pause can feel uncomfortable.

There is value, though, in taking a moment to listen and to plan instead of being reactive. Everyone, everywhere, felt the weight of a new, looming anxiety. Would they have a job in 30 days? Would they be healthy in 30 days? Knowing this overlay of global fear and personal uncertainty was palpable, it didn’t feel appropriate to promote our services at the time—to add to the noise. It was also unlikely that any audience would open, much less read, anything in their inbox or their feed that didn’t start with “COVID UPDATE.” So, we gave it a few weeks, and we used that time to reposition how we would communicate.

Maintain authenticity

Key to our communications was staying true to ourselves. We wanted to be there for our clients—so we decided to “show” rather than “tell.” How could we be helpful? Our capabilities weren’t in manufacturing face masks, developing vaccines, or working in ERs. Instead, we worked toward becoming a resource in what we are experts at. Sustainability disclosure. Filing CEQA documents. Preparing EIRs. Conducting fieldwork. Collaborating with clients. Noise monitoring. We posted resources for jurisdictional and regulatory updates. When we found (and worked through) a new challenge presented by COVID-19, we wrote about it. Our blog became a library for sharing ways to meet those challenges.

Be a resource

Every month, that library continues to grow. At the end of April 2020, we started executing on a conscious decision to put a hold on any communications that didn’t directly provide value for our audience. We wanted to support our clients that have entrusted us with their goals and needs for more than 37 years. We shifted our marketing communications strategy from a "product/services" proposition to a "resource" proposition, focusing on developing content that was valuable enough to warrant sharing.

Rather than sending emails promoting our services, we distributed content that organically demonstrated our experience. We published white papers on ways to innovate, be resilient, and thrive during global crises. Instead of sponsoring industry events, we submitted relevant and timely articles to industry publications. We hosted webinars on how to complete sustainability reporting during COVID-19. We focused on developing the quality of our communications rather than the quantity. If we didn’t have valuable content to share, we didn’t share.

We broke our "content only" strategy for just two initiatives. Each spoke directly to time-sensitive industry events, providing specific areas of expertise and sector-specific data to validate that expertise. We found a way to cut through the noise while respecting people’s changing attitudes and overwhelming inboxes, always maintaining the authenticity of our purpose. And we continue this strategy today.

Improve processes

With some resources diverted away from communications campaigns, we shifted much of our focus to internal processes. We redeveloped our strategy on SEO. We redefined customer lifecycles and lead tracking workflows, and refined our databases to target specific audience segments. We improved our reporting on lead capture and channel performance. There were many days, weeks, and months when it felt busier than ever, although outreach campaigns had slowed down.

And it worked. A content-focused, audience-focused strategy resonated with our clients, and it improved our marketing metrics. Our FCS Blog, which morphed from an SEO strategy for our key product lines into a resource for industry colleagues, improved our site’s bounce rate by 28%, and increased session duration by 148%. Our online competitive visibility saw a 2.5% increase in position tracking. Year over year, our average webinar attendance rate increased 13%, and the average number of attendees increased 10.2%.

The results are validating, and it feels good! The performance metrics support our strategy. And, more importantly, it’s inspiring to know that, in some small way, we may have made it easier for a few clients and colleagues to adapt and rise to their own challenges. We empowered our clients, who in turn empowered us.

At the core of our success was our ability to leverage a strong team. We’re flexible. We shift priorities, often. We have clients that trust us to support them through tumultuous times. We have leading internal SMEs that speak with authority on continually evolving industry and regulatory trends. We’re part of an organization that "gets it."

The reality is that we are all in this together. And it’s evident in the work we do every day.


FCS and ADEC ESG Solutions comprise more than 100 individuals offering due diligence, technical analysis, planning, environmental compliance, permitting, mitigation/monitoring services, ESG corporate strategy, GHG and metrics management, CSR and ESG indices support, and software and technology solutions for public and private projects. To find out more about joining our collaborative team, check out our current career opportunities.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of FirstCarbon Solutions, and/or any/all contributors to this site. 

About the author

Jacki Fricke

Jacki Fricke thumbnail

As Senior Marketing Manager, Jacki leverages twenty years’ experience on both the client and agency side to translate internal and external client market situations into actionable plans. Creating go-to-market strategies for ADEC ESG Solutions and FirstCarbon Solutions’ (FCS) business units and products, and multi-channel MarCom plans for strategic partnerships allows her to marry her affinity for analytics and savvy creative with organizations that provide positive global impact. Jacki earned her BA in Political Science with a minor in Communication Studies from The College of New Jersey.

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