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Content Strategy and Crisis Communications

Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen a spectrum of responses to the ongoing COVID–19 pandemic, including our own. Blend's Director of Strategy Corey Vilhauer writes on how we can straddle the line between hiatus and action, building upon a content strategy for crisis communications.


Authored by


  • Content and IA
  • Digital Optimization
  • Strategy

Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen a spectrum of responses to the ongoing COVID–19 pandemic, including our own. They’ve ranged from introspective to strictly business. Some have continued to try to pitch services, while others regretfully signal a closure or drastic cutback in offerings.

None of these messages are easy, because nothing like the current pandemic has hit in quite the same way, with an entire world attempting to straddle the line between hiatus and action. Which means our questions continue to follow the same balance.

How do we message appropriately, genuinely combining both optimism and realism? How do we communicate needs without falling back into marketing or sales? How do we develop content that helps those who need it without overlooking those who are secondarily affected by the pandemic?

Unfortunately, the answer depends a lot on what you do, who you are, and why you’re providing that messaging in the first place. It’s another game of “It depends.”

With this in mind, Blend’s Director of Strategy Corey Vilhauer wrote about content strategy for crisis communications on his blog, Eating Elephant:

First off, understand that regardless of how prepared you are to communicate during a crisis, you’re never really prepared. And that’s perfectly fine.

Most organizations — especially small and resource-strapped organizations — do not have the resources or infrastructure to both plan and keep up-to-date a formal crisis communication plan. Which means while it’s easy to say something flippant like “You should have a crisis communication plan in place and practiced,” in reality — among rapid changes, a lack of information, and constant adjustments and uncertainty — even the best-laid communication plan is going to fall apart.

This is normal. Crisis doesn’t wait for you to have your paperwork in place before wreaking havoc.

If you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance a crisis is already underway. (In fact, if you’re reading this post around the time it’s published, the COVID–19 crisis is very much underway and has been for months.) You don’t have time to go back and plan, so the best you can do is take a deep breath and start right now.

Or maybe you’ve already started and you’re worried you already messed it up. Chances are, you have not messed it up.

If you’ve already rushed less-than-perfect messaging or site functionality — the kind of thing where you say “it’s not great, but we got the message out” — you’re in luck: you’ve already gone through one iteration of messaging, and if the crisis is widespread enough, you’ve also done it alongside thousands of other organizations.

Remember, your small part of the web can be changed, which means if you need to adjust your message, you can.

For a quick look at what you can do to navigate the content landscape during a time of crisis, we have created a Crisis Communication Quick Guide (pdf).

Additionally, you can read Corey's full post at his blog, Eating Elephant: “Content Strategy and Crisis Communication: Your Content During the COVID–19 Pandemic and Beyond.”

Content Strategy and Crisis Communication Checklist (pdf)

A crisis is unpredictable and disrupts our day to day processes. While you can’t always fully prepare your business for a crisis, you can help yourself by putting a plan of action together to help shape your action steps for when a crisis does hit.

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