My daughter turns 20 this year. She was born in the year 2000. She said to me last week at dinner, “I’ve been alive for three decades: the 2000s, the 2010s, and COVID-19.” That seems apt: the pandemic is both new and it feels like it’s been going on for a long time. Even as things are starting to relax, we still have a long way to go.
You feel this, and your customers feel this, too. In this climate of anxiety, the worst thing that you, as a business, can do is to say nothing. Saying nothing implies that there is nothing to say. It implies that you are too scared or too weak to speak up. It implies that you think your customers don’t care. But the reality is that customers are listening — they are waiting for their favorite brands to weigh in. This is a rare opportunity for businesses to really connect with their audience.
Content in the Time of COVID
Yes, every brand in virtually every industry should be making some kind of content play right now to address the current situation. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about doing this.
So, what does a tasteful, effective content strategy look like?
To answer this question, you can ask yourself a few other questions like:
- What is my audience feeling?
- What should I be saying?
- What could I be doing to help my customers?
Businesses that Are Doing It Right
If there’s an upside to marketing amidst a global pandemic, it’s that everyone is going through the same thing. It’s a shared experience among brands, but no single strategy is going to be effective (or even appropriate) for every brand. As marketers, we can take a look at what other businesses are doing right, and decide what we want to emulate.
New Balance is a shoe company, but right now they feel as though the world needs sterile protective clothing more than it needs top-quality athletic footwear. That’s why New Balance is reallocating resources in many of their manufacturing facilities towards making masks for healthcare workers. This fills a desperate need, and demonstrates their commitment helping those on the front lines. The message to their customers is an honest, human concern for others.
With professional-level sporting events taking a worldwide hiatus, Nike is doing it’s part to appeal to their audience in a positive way. Nike’s “Play Inside, Play for the World” campaign encourages home athletes to do their part, by maintaining social distancing — promising its customers that by not going out, they’ll be playing a game that can benefit millions. They could be lobbying to bring professional sports back, but instead they're communicating that they care about athletes — and by extension their customers — more than profits.
From offering encouraging messages of support, to showing off their own charitable donations and initiatives, Budweiser is stepping up to do its part. The #ONETEAM campaign is focusing on the need for unity across the world. Coming together when we can’t actually come together makes for a powerful, and memorable, message.
OK. So it’s a funny actor doing a fake news show. What’s special about that? Well, it’s special because the humor here serves a purpose: It’s promoting positivity. It’s undeniably optimistic in a world where most newscasts are anything but. And maybe most impressive of all is that it doesn’t try to ignore what’s going on. Instead, it meets the fear head on, and finds the nuggets of hope that we all need. Brands should take note, there’s enough doom-and-gloom talk going on right now, so be a light. People will love you for optimism.
It's not just consumer-facing marketing that has to adapt to the global pandemic. The new reality is that many organizations are having to adapt to a fully remote workforce. And while some businesses are running smoothly without skipping a beat, others are having more trouble making the change. Qualtrics is offering a free employee pulse-check survey, along with a number of additional free solutions to help companies manage through the pandemic. Businesses will appreciate this simple, useful solution — one that Qualtrics is uniquely suited to provide.
It's easy to think these lessons only apply to name brands, but the insights can apply to most any business.
1. Look at Your Values from Your Customers’ PerspectiveYour core values should always be at the heart of your content, but during times of crisis, they can take on even more significant meaning. So, take a step back and look at those values from a customer’s perspective.
Is tenacity one of your core values? If so, then speak to the gritty and awe-inspiring level of dedication your business has to serving existing customers. What about innovation? You can showcase how your business is pivoting services or resources to fight the impact of COVID-19. And if you have charity or compassion as core values, now is the time to talk about your actions. Toot your own horn (or get someone else to do it for you), shout out other businesses that are making a positive difference, and use your good works to inspire others.
2. Be the Best Version of Your BrandDuring times of crisis, there is safety in boldness. Now is the time for brands to stand out for idealism. Share stories of what your leadership and employees are doing to be positive representatives of your brand. Don’t let your competitors be the only virtue leaders in your market; lead your industry, and gain a stronger voice in the process.
3. Weave Relevant StoriesThe pandemic has been going on long enough that your brand should be able to discuss its impact. Create and share stories that customers can relate to. Have you had to let people go? Address it, and discuss the struggle in remaining loyal to your people when you are unable to financially support them. Things are tough for everyone right now, but there is understanding in shared struggle. Be human. Be honest. And express your solidarity.
And, if your business is seeing success in spite of the current crisis, then be gracious and charitable as you give back — your generosity acknowledges that you understand the pandemic and want to help.
4. Build UnityThings have changed for your business. But things have also changed for your customers. Consumers find themselves reexamining their purchasing habits and brand affinities. Once loyal customer may chose, or be forced to reconsider their purchasing loyalties. Speak to the changes you’ve made, and speak optimistically. It will inspire your audience. And at times like these, people are grateful for a little inspiration.
5. Be a LightMuch like the pandemic, your attitude and the attitude of your brand is infectious. So why not spread some positivity in your messaging? As with any crisis, the fear and the doubt will eventually pass, but what will remain are the feelings associated with those who were involved. How your brand addresses this situation today may cement its reputation for years to come. Be a light. Stand out as a hero. Focus on setting a positive example. And when this is all over, your customers will remember how you put them ahead of your bottom line.
After all, the pandemic won’t last forever. But with the right content strategy, the positive relationship and good feelings you create with your customers in their time of need will stretch far into the future.