In-app guides in a crisis: Communicating timely, urgent, and sensitive information to users

Written by Nat Brown  | 



It’s a situation no company wants to face but all have to prepare for. It can come in many forms: a data breach, a product recall, a natural disaster, employee misconduct that makes headlines. What constitutes an emergency for a business will depend on multiple factors. But what all crises have in common is this: They demand a response

Companies owe it to their stakeholders—particularly customers, users, and employees—to keep them up to date on any serious situation, up to and including when it’s resolved. That means having the right communications strategy to deliver timely and urgent information. 

Numerous factors will determine what companies communicate and when. These situations are usually full of moving parts, and getting the right information to comms teams can be difficult in such hectic, fast-paced circumstances. Once they know what they want to communicate, however, the question turns to how to communicate it.

Don’t let crucial updates languish in users’ inboxes

Any comprehensive urgent communications strategy may involve multiple channels: press releases, social media blasts, emails, prepared statements for leadership, etc. These approaches all have their place, but lack one critical characteristic: They’re delivered through external channels that require users to leave your product to see. So how can you be sure to reach users in a timely, relevant way? Do you really want to risk your customers not getting crucial information because it’s buried in their inbox or posted to a social platform they don’t use? 

This is where organizations can leverage the power of in-app communication and guidance. In-app guides’ value reaches across teams and use cases. From new user onboarding to feedback solicitation to communicating product and feature updates, these guides have always been the ideal means to reach users where and when it matters most—in the app itself.  The same holds true for communicating with customers when time is of the essence. What better time and place to reach them than your product at the very moment they’re using it?

How companies use Pendo to get important info to users, fast 

At Pendo, we saw an uptick in customers harnessing the power of in-app guides for urgent comms following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. To give just one example, Nelnet, one of the largest servicers of student loans in the U.S., used Pendo with parents and students trying to pay tuition amid the coronavirus outbreak. More generally, it leveraged guides to disseminate the company’s response to the pandemic and highlight helpful resources for users, including new webinars.

Of course, other emergencies could look completely different from the pandemic. Some crises are environmental, others financial. When Silicon Valley Bank imploded, countless questions immediately arose. What would the government response be? Which businesses and individuals were impacted? How did this magnitude of a bank run happen in 2023? A major multinational financial services company and Pendo customer understood the anxiety and uncertainty the headlines were generating for its customers. Using in-app guides, the organization swiftly communicated updates about the situation to better inform its users of what was happening and whether/how they’d be impacted.

Get the guide: How to communicate with your users where and when it matters most

How you communicate with users during an emergency (or when timely, sensitive information is at stake) can make or break their trust in your company and your product going forward. When you rely on email as the sole means for these communications, you risk letting critical information disappear into the black hole of full inboxes, only for your users to be blindsided by the information later. Communicate with them directly, in real time, in the right place—inside the app itself using in-app guides.

As you build out your in-app guides strategy for emergency comms, here are four things to keep in mind:

  1. Form the right cross-functional team
  2. Decide whom to communicate with—and segment accordingly
  3. Have guide comms templates in place and at the ready
  4. Give the right updates the right way

For more info, download our free guide on using in-app guides for urgent communications. If you’re ready to explore Pendo and see in-app guides in action, check out our self-guided tours or try Pendo now, for free.