Expert roundup: advice for brands to follow during COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has affected virtually every business in the world.
This is a crucial moment.
How brands react now will shape long-term loyalty. We reached out to our network of marketing & PR experts to gather their key marketing advice on how your brand should react and the steps you need to take to ensure you come out on the good side of tomorrow’s new economy.
Many businesses have seen an adverse impact on their sales and/or client retention.
But even businesses that witnessed explosive growth have still had to deal with major changes - from working remotely to managing logistics and traffic on unprecedented scales.
The first step when tackling any major change is to acknowledge it.
"As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we've never been more interconnected. Regardless of national origin, political affiliation or tribal identities, we are all at risk.
Brands should acknowledge that they're operating in a crisis too. Amazon has a top screen notice on their homepage about how they're prioritizing shipments. Bank of America has a coronavirus notification on the bottom of their homepage. And Ralph's, the grocer, is loading a pop-up blocker about new store hours.
Eric Schwartzman Author of the Secrets of Successful PR: 2020 Report.
"I think we have to accept that this will be the new normal. I do believe that the marketing basics remain and the consumer journey doesn’t change. Just operationally, how do we apply what we know as marketers in the time of COVID. Brands who adjust fast, will recover faster. We must be ready to develop new product lines, improve on customer and delivery services, and explore different CX models that drive purpose and stay-at-home entertainment."
-Emily Lim, Independent Consultant
2. Adapting is not about pivoting
This can be a tricky pitfall for many brands and businesses. The idea of adapting is not synonymous with ‘shifting’ or ‘pivoting’ - it is deeper and more drastic.
The fact that the pandemic has changed the very core of how we interact, conduct business, and spend our leisure time, means that customer needs have changed on a fundamental level.
Pivoting messaging and focusing on quick wins are band-aid fixes that won’t triumph in the face of changes that will linger for the long haul.
Even in flux, data-driven decision making remains the most powerful marketing tool.
3. Adapting is about understanding the changing needs of the audience
Adapt the messaging on your core push channels. Don’t focus on yourself and your offer. Forget about your traditional sales messaging and focus on your audience NOW.
Dig deep to find out what your customers current needs and new pain points are. This is how you can effectively insert yourself into a conversation today.
Old tried and tested approaches simply won’t cut it.
"Be bold enough to lead change in consumer behaviours like how KAWS changed the way you interact with art while being socially distanced with their Augmented Reality Art Exhibition, by using geolocated pixels in 11 major cities. Another one would be how one of Asia’s Best Bars, Coley, made cocktails you can enjoy at home."
Emily Lim, Independent Consultant
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4. Listen very closely to the audience before you act
Listening to consumers should always be a cornerstone of your marketing strategy. Today, monitoring your brand and your industry is more important than ever. It can make or break your brand.
"The brands that shine will be those that take a real look at what they're dealing with before reacting.
It's encouraging to see a surge in the use of social data analytics during this current crisis, it shows a real commitment to relevance and acting considerately."
- Dr Jillian Ney, Founder, The Social Intelligence Lab
Don’t forget to monitor the conversation around COVID-19 as well to inform both your conversational strategy and tactical decisions.
5. When you act, prioritize empathy
There’s a real opportunity for businesses that can provide help during this time. This will be an iconic moment in a brand’s history that consumers will not forget.
We all have an ethical responsibility to act with empathy and not spread misinformation. Taking advantage of the crisis is not the goal here.
Check in on your customers and prospects to find out more about their pain points and let them know how you can help. When it comes to outreach, consider using video as the first touchpoint to add a personal touch.
6. Add value
Make sure you’re solving a problem, not just pivoting your messaging on a shallow level.
A simple Google search can point you in the right direction of what your audience is looking for right now. Platforms like Reddit and Quora can also help you find out your consumers’ most pressing questions.
Build an educational content strategy around the questions your brand is in a unique position to answer or the pain points that you’re in a unique position to solve.
"Do not go dark with your marketing. It’s a great time to build brand love through purpose and fun. For example, the F1 cancellation didn’t stop F1 drivers from racing in the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix. F1 drivers took this opportunity to live-stream on Twitch which delighted many fans around the world. K-pop group, BTS, created a #stayathome dance challenge on their social media channels like TikTok to address boredom. And that definitely kept fans entertained."
-Emily Lim, Independent Consultant
You can even think of adding value in terms of adding value to your own brand. Prioritize improving UX, chat functions, site architecture, and effective remote working solutions. These changes will continue to add value to your brand as we enter the era of the ‘new normal.’
7. Communicate clearly, carefully, and thoughtfully
Transparency is key.
Whether it’s the basics like being clear about your new opening hours. The more difficult conversations like the impact on your headcount. Or the seemingly positive communication about a growth in business.
Your transparent communication needs to remain empathetic with the situation. You shouldn’t come across as profiteering from a human tragedy - even if your business has unintentionally reaped the rewards.
Ensure that your communication with all stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, media, shareholders, etc.) is not tone-deaf. Even statements such as ‘business as usual’ can be very problematic today with so many lives and livelihoods compromised every day.
Our experts share more details on mindful communication below.
8. Sometimes it's okay to just be quiet
We all are suffering from inboxes full of messages and updates from CEOs. Are they really essential? Do customers need to hear how every company they’ve ever given their email to is handling COVID-19? Probably not.
Take a step back to consider whether your communication is adding value.
Revisit any automated emails to make sure they're not tone-deaf. Reduce the volume of marketing emails and social posting.
Be mindful of the fact that over-communicating (especially about a distressful situation) can add stress to your audience at a time when we are battling collective psychological distress.
So - as a great summary for all the detailed advice above, I’ll leave you with some wise words from digital expert, Marie Dolle.