Crisis communication does not have to be one-size-fits-all

As we’ve all read in many corporate communications articles over the last several weeks, in times of crisis, consumers seek reassurance, compassion, and problem-solving products and services from the companies they trust. While we wouldn’t argue with this simple set of principles, we know that marketers can do better by tailoring their messaging to the unique psychological traits of their diverse customer base.

A great deal of academic research shows that people with different personality traits respond quite differently to crises. For instance, individuals who score high on Conscientiousness respond to crises with increased social interaction, problem engagement, and positive reinterpretation and growth. This response is quite different from that of individuals who have low scores on Emotional Stability (i.e., high scores on Neuroticism); they, in contrast, respond to crises with greater anxiety and avoidance, while eschewing positive reframing and problem engagement. One message does not fit all. Supporting your (future) customers through an emotionally taxing period requires awareness and diversity of messaging to provide empathetic and thoughtful communication to all.

Pinpoint’s data dictionary has many implications for communicating most effectively across the broad range of custom psychometric segmentation our platform will reveal among your customer records. Below are just a few high-level findings:

Openness: Interesting new research has suggested that very open people have a diminished physiological response to stress. This passes the gut check if you recall that open people tend to be more creative and flexible to change (recall that the Facets of Openness are imagination, emotionality, adventurousness, intellect, liberalism, and artistry). Because people high in Openness are naturally more impervious to stress than others, research indicates they are more likely to engage with the problem. When communicating with Open individuals during a crisis, do not feel you need to shy away from the problem at hand.

Conscientiousness: Research indicates that Conscientious people are more likely to employ the coping mechanism of problem engagement (rather than problem avoidance), positive reinterpretation, and growth. Unlike some other groups, these individuals appreciate communications from companies they trust, discussing the health crisis head-on, and they especially value positive angles. Highlight what your company is doing to help those in need during these times, along with good news and insights.

Extraversion: Social distancing orders and mandatory shelter-in-place ordinances in some states have certainly thrown a wrench into extraverts’ day-to-day life, as well as their go-to coping mechanism when under stress. Help them by filling this void with colorful, stimulating content and personable communications that humanize your brand and make them feel as though they are connecting with an individual.

Agreeableness: This Factor revolves entirely around the individual’s participation in group dynamics. Those high in Agreeableness frequently rely upon social interaction following a crisis to cope with the psychological effects of the event. Emphasize brand community and collective response to the crisis to effectively communicate with these individuals.

Neuroticism: This audience is more likely to experience acute psychological stress in response to the health crisis and has a tendency to avoid the problem and to be angered by thin veneers of positivity. This means that you should not dwell on the crisis in your communications, either negatively or over-positively (as it will ring inauthentic).

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