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Diagnosis in a Crisis

24 July 2020

A good diagnosis is the fundamental foundation of solving any problem.

Diagnosis in a Crisis

A good diagnosis is the fundamental foundation of solving any problem.

At the best of times this can be difficult to achieve. In the world of brand strategy we are almost always working with imperfect or incomplete information. Yet we must ultimately make choices that will deliver value for brands and businesses.

At MCCP we believe that the best way to get to this point is by diagnosing the problem at hand quickly and well through a rigorous and laser focused approach to research.

The difficulty is that during a crisis, good diagnosis becomes even more challenging due to the speed at which information is changing. In this context it feels even more difficult to find a firm foothold from which you can make decisions with confidence.

However, over the past few months we have been working with clients to do just this by combining fundamental approaches with a more agile way of working, all designed to achieve clarity, fast.

In this blog post we will take you through some of the steps all brands should be taking in order to move forward with confidence now and into the future.

Listening Deeply 

Listening deeply to people is a fundamental step in getting to a firm diagnosis. This is always true but in times of crisis it becomes ever more important, but often harder to achieve. As pressure to understand and take action mounts it can seem an impossible task to take the time to recruit and speak to your consumers. However, we believe this is the most important step you can take if you’re in the business of communications. Your customers’ feelings, opinions and needs offer the key to unlocking value for your brand or business. Getting to grips with how the crisis is changing their lives is a crucial first step that needs to be taken. It’s the difference between building your house on sand and building it on rock.

By listening, empathising and seeking to understand how people are feeling we have been able to help brands respond to their target audience’s needs effectively, in a time of unprecedented uncertainty. Throughout the crisis we’ve undertaken qualitative research projects independently and for clients like the Department of Health and the LVA & VFI. In each case this work provided a solid foundation of fact and insight that have shaped effective responses to COVID-19. Often this meant running several groups a day, remotely all via Zoom but the value of the information we gained far outweighed the logistical challenges.

From Diagnosis to Prognosis to Action, Fast

COVID-19 has meant that consumer insights have been transformed from a firm bedrock to a shifting sand. This means that what we learn in research must be understood and actioned quickly in order to be effective.

This requires a shift in how we analyse and translate our research findings into an actionable plan. Knowing that research findings will quickly go out of date, brands need to adapt how they work in order benefit from the research they are conducting.

At MCCP we created an agile model that allowed us to work closely with clients to deliver razor sharp insights at pace. This meant focussing our energies very intensely for short bursts in order to move quickly from fieldwork to an actionable debrief. This meant more time crafting insights and a lot less time crafting decks.


Integrating and Repeating – Research

The steps discussed earlier enable brands to achieve a good diagnosis of the situation and move quickly to action. However, nothing compares to what you can learn when you put those insights to the test in market. This means that once you have implemented what you’ve learned you must embrace a ‘test-and-learn’ approach in order refine communications activity in a fast-changing environment. In our work with the Department of Health we set up a way of working that allowed us to craft, test, deliver and measure communications on a weekly basis. This process was invaluable to The Government and NPHET as they sought re-shape behaviours in order to better combat the spread of COVID-19 in Ireland.



You’ll probably have noticed that many of the principles we have shared are fundamental to effective communications at any time. However, there are two key elements to note. Firstly, often in times of crisis, external pressures force us to abandon the principles of effective communication; at MCCP we believe that brands must fight against this pressure and in fact double-down on the fundamentals of great communications in order to effectively respond to a crisis. The second key difference is flexibility; whereas we should be cautious about changing our principles in the face of crisis, brands do need to be open to adapting how they apply these principles based on the environment they are in. This is where brands need to be flexible in how they themselves work and how they work with their partners.  

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis we have used this method to help Government Organisations and Brands alike successfully navigate with clarity during this time of rapid change and uncertainty.

If your brand is in need of clarity, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Declan - Declan@mccp.ie


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