It’s no secret that COVID-19, aka the coronavirus, is changing every aspect of our world. But it’s also changing the way brands connect with consumers.
As people, we’re struggling to keep up with constantly changing guidelines and information from every source under the sun. As professionals, we’re dealing with interruptions and changes to the way we tackle any task. As marketers, we’re trying to stay one step ahead of what this all means for businesses and brands—translating operational and budgetary challenges into communications that may need to change direction on a dime.
While nothing is certain (and it looks to stay that way for the foreseeable future), there are a few fundamentals that can be applied to nearly every communication strategy and platform.
This is a time to put people first.
I know it’s human nature to try and save your skin first (and your brand’s second), but empathy and tact should reign supreme during times like these. You have no idea what audiences are going through right now; everyone’s situation is different. Be sensitive to that fact anytime you have a piece of communication going out, whether it’s a press release, social post or email. Ask how your brand can meet their needs and improve their situation—not how you can profit from a tough time.
In other words, things are not normal right now. If you act like they are, you will instantly alienate your audience.
It might be best to say nothing at all.
There are moments brands need to be part of the public conversation. This may not be one of them. If you don’t have any relevant information to offer, it’s totally fine to take a breather. Injecting yourself into an already saturated conversation with dire real-world consequences might not be right for your business. Hang back, remain responsive to incoming communications and expect the unexpected as this situation evolves.
Clarity is now king, queen and everything in between.
As you know, people are being inundated with information like never before. That means it’s of paramount importance that your messaging can be digested and internalized instantly. If you’re a public-facing business like a restaurant, make it easy for people to find out how they can now get your goods (if that’s still a possibility). Ensure they have easy access to fundamentals like updated hours of operations or changes to the experience you offer and what they should expect.
If you’re a B2B company, be clear about the ways your operations are changing and how you will work to fulfill your obligations. Just as importantly, share any challenges or delays clients should expect.
Ensure your information is reliable, accurate and timely.
Facts around the COVID-19 pandemic are constantly shifting. That means misinformation is everywhere. Before sharing any new rule, regulation or change, be absolutely certain your information is coming from a reliable source. Ideally, a few reliable sources. The last thing you want to do is share something that is outdated or outright incorrect. First of all, it’s a matter of public health and safety. Number two, it’s a bad look for your brand that could come to haunt you. It’s better to be right than be first.
Fundamentals are more important than ever.
Now is the time to be certain your basics are in order. If you’re writing a piece of content, go back to the inverted pyramid and make sure your most important info comes first. Keep copy engaging, but also ensure it’s easily understood and quickly conveys the points you need to cover. And it sounds like a no-brainer, but double check your grammar and spelling. Small mistakes can stop people in their tacks (see what I mean?).
If you’re designing something, make sure text is very easy to read—from typographic hierarchy to the contrast of colors and legible sizes. If you’re creating an illustration or some type of infographic, make information impactful and clear while leveraging elements that increase readability. Once again, it’s insanely important that people can digest your content quickly and easily. Don’t abandon your brand guidelines—but make an addendum if you’re finding issues with any of the above.
Thoughts? Questions? Comments?
This is by no means meant to be a comprehensive answer to every communications challenge that may pop up during the coronavirus crisis we’re all facing. I’d love to hear any additions or thoughts you have to supplement the tips above. Or maybe you have questions about how they can be applied to your brand or business. Either way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.