By Sofie Skouras, deputy head of technology PR practice at Aspectus

“When this pandemic is eventually over, it is the brands and companies who go out of their way to help who will come out of it on top” – this is what Paul Sutton said.

The scrutiny that businesses are currently facing due to COVID-19 is causing paralysis for some. And rightly so. Getting the tone of a piece of communication right is a difficult balancing act. But, as many business leaders and research has shown, continuing to communicate with your audience – whether that’s your employees, investors or clients during this time is critical.

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The other week I wrote for City AM on how businesses were reacting (both the good and the bad) to coronavirus and outlined six suggestions for marketers and business leaders to consider. Here’s a recap:

1. Use this time to plan ahead

Various respected bodies are saying this will be the sharpest and deepest recession on record. The uncertainty around makes it hard to plan, but business must be prepared for when the economy recovers and use this time now to consider the short and long term of the company’s strategy and positioning.

Although we cannot compare the 2008 recession to the downturn, we are entering in. What we do know from the 2008 recession is those businesses who continued to invest in marketing during the 2008 downturn, were more successful in weathering the storm than those who did not, according to a Deutsche Bank report.

Suggestion: use this time to not only go after quick wins and support your audience or community, but also as a chance to regroup, reassess and plan for the longer term.

2. Closely monitor your tone of voice

You should constantly be reviewing how to discuss the crisis and ensure your tone is appropriate within the changing environment.

Digital presence is more crucial now than ever, so it’s important that firms aren’t continuing to market themselves like it’s ‘business as usual’. For instance, if your brand usually strikes a light-hearted, jokey tone, consider whether that’s appropriate if talking about coronavirus – your posts could be read by someone who has been deeply affected by the virus.

Suggestion: pause any scheduled social media posts for the foreseeable future and instead take it day-by-day. We’ve seen some very awkward looking ads and posts which clearly hadn’t been updated.

3. Tap into the thirst for information

People are consuming more content online – and it’s not just virus related. Use this to start investing in your blog, social media campaigns and building resources.

Suggestion: if you’re struggling to convert leads, shift the focus to top of the funnel tactics. For instance, invest in resources that educate your audience and campaigns that capture leads. Doing this means you’ll have a good pipeline to nurture and convert when spending habits do eventually change.

4. Be supportive

Not surprisingly, consumers are demanding more positive news to reduce anxiety. Indeed, Google Trends shows the spike in searches for ‘positive news’ in the last month.

People are also looking for more support across a range of things from remote working through to staying fit. However, note the tone of voice section above in ensuring you don’t sound too cheerful or chipper about this situation.

Suggestion: tap into this demand but be careful of the tone. Whether it’s by creating informative webinars to bring people together or curating a positive news roundup newsletter about your industry.

5. Be selective about what conversations you join in on

Companies can actively damage their brand with ill-conceived attempts to join a COVID-19 conversation they have no reason to be part of. Ensure you stay relevant and true to what your brand stands for, without that relevance, brands run a risk of exploiting the situation.

Suggestion: If you haven’t already, spend some time mapping out the conversations taking place in the publications you want to be in – it might not all be virus-related. Then see where you can comment and offer insight – it’s important to be strict in ensuring everything ties back to your overall messaging so you don’t adopt a scattergun approach to communications.

6. Do not exploit the situation

According to Kantar’s research, 60% of consumers don’t want brands to be exploiting the situation to profit. For instance, Brewdog faced some backlash for overly branding their hand sanitiser recently.

A good example where the tone was struck, and it felt genuinely authentic, was a local Italian restaurant which accompanied each takeaway order with a CD of Italian music to give to people to listen to try and recreate their restaurant dining experience.

Suggestion: It’s hard to outline where the line is drawn between offering support and exploiting a situation. I think if you’re offering genuine support – without trying to sell people things they don’t actually need, then you’re on the good side.

Of course, the situation is in constant flux, meaning what you say or do one week might not be appropriate the following week. Businesses must be constantly reviewing what communication you’re putting out and if it’s still appropriate.

Above all, now is not the time to cut your remaining lines of communication in the fear of getting it wrong. We’ve seen a few businesses do this, and indeed clients thinking this might be the best option, but continuing to communicate to your audience – when you’re physically unable to do this face-to-face  – highlights the importance of keeping those remaining lines of communication open.

Are you worried about how your business should be communicating? Book a free and confidential 30-minute consultation.

This post originally appeared on City AM.

 

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