Alexander Santo

Every marketing professional across the globe is currently faced with an unprecedented challenge. Context is everything, and right now COVID-19 is dominating the context of everything your brand does online. How your organization acts now and in the coming weeks will shape the way your customers think and feel about your brand.

As marketers and as humans, we’re in this together. It’s up to us to face this crisis with empathy, respect and mindfulness. We may be separated by social distancing guidelines, quarantines and closed borders, but the internet empowers us to support one another from afar.

As you adjust your brand messaging in light of this new context, keep this advice in mind:

1. Don’t set your marketing strategy in stone

Across the world, people are dealing with various stages of the COVID-19 crisis, but most of us are still in the early weeks of quarantine. Situations can change rapidly. We’ve seen this as government guidelines evolve from day to day.

Be prepared to change your strategy as necessary. Keep your eye on the news and try to communicate regularly with your customers. Recognize that their needs may fluctuate as we deal with this situation and stand ready to shift your priorities responsively.

As businesspeople, it’s our responsibility to navigate uncertainty and help others to do the same. Having a strong marketing strategy is just as important as it ever was, but it needs to be agile and responsive to avoid looking tonedeaf.

2. Don’t only think about yourself

This is a tumultuous time for businesses, and many leaders are rightfully focusing on how they will keep their organizations afloat. After all, we can’t help others if we’re incapacitated. It’s a lesson taught at the beginning of every airline flight: In the event of an emergency, you should put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else with theirs.

With that lesson in mind, it’s also important to be empathetic. It’s not the time to capitalize on the crisis or highlight your company’s latest wins. You don’t want your brand to be perceived as ignorant, reckless or arrogant.

If your house is in order, now is the time to check in on others and see how you can help. Look to your brand values and find ways to use them as a guide through this uncertainty.

3. Don’t contribute to the spread of ignorance

Marketers always have a responsibility to be truthful and transparent, and that’s more important now than ever. Try not to get caught up in sensationalist stories. Do your research and check your sources before publishing your content on your website or social media.

The recent toilet paper shortage was a primary example of how the media can create a panic when there’s no need for one. As reported by BuzzFeed News, many of the top trending posts that mentioned toilet paper in the first week of March did not explain that there was no actual shortage. Stories about panicked shoppers led to a self-repeating cycle that is still impacting consumers in some parts of the world.

4. Don’t abandon your content strategy

If you’ve seen a downturn in your organic and paid traffic, you’re not alone. Some industries have been hit harder than others, but you only need to look to the stock market to see that the economy is getting hit hard. But just because the stock market is down does not mean that your business is less valuable to your customers than it was last week or last month.

As we deal with this situation, search traffic will return. Companies that abandon their SEO and content marketing strategies will be worse off than those that keep moving forward. Remember, content takes time, often up to three months, to rank on the first page of Google. Now is the perfect moment to produce content that will help you acquire new customers and recover faster as we come out of the current crisis.

5. Don’t go dark

If you feel like now is not the right time to market your business, that would be understandable – but it would also be a mistake. Ceasing communication with your customers could make it feel like you’re abandoning them. Even if you’re in an industry that has been forcibly closed for the duration of the crisis, it’s important to remind your customers that your organization is still here to help, even if that just means keeping them informed throughout this uncertain time.

How people act in a crisis is often a sign of their true colors, and that goes for brands, too. Share your story, and don’t be afraid to seem vulnerable. Help your employees share their stories and show off the human side of your brand. Right now, people feel helpless because so much is out of their control. Even if all you can do is commiserate, it may help someone feel less lonely.

6. Don’t forget to look to the future

We don’t know when this crisis will end, but we do know that it won’t last forever. We will face many challenges in the coming weeks, but we will overcome them and we will emerge more prepared for future crises.

Markets will look different at the end of this. People will have different attitudes. Social norms and practices will change. Now is the time to think about what you want your business to look like as life returns to a more normal pace.

In life, change is the only constant. Marketers adapt to shifting trends and changing opinions all the time. In that regard, we are uniquely prepared to handle this period of dramatic change.

As we all figure this out together, it’s important to recognize the brands and people we can look to as positive examples in these uncertain times. Leave us a comment and let us know about any standout instances of empathetic marketing you’ve recently encountered.