Rebuild your brand during COVID and communicate flawlessly with these 5 “do’s” and “don’ts.”More than ever, thoughtful and careful messaging has become the key that separates major misses from massive brand wins during the pandemic. In other words, having a strong strategy and message has never been more critical. When it comes to marketing and communications, you’re facing an ever-changing set of circumstances. A sudden influential tweet or a medical report shifts the narrative and now you have to pivot –– again. So, we’re setting a few general guidelines about how to formulate your thought process while adapting to the inevitable changes the future holds.
Do determine if your service is a problem-solving service or if it is more of a leisure brand/amenity. If you’re a problem-solving business, you can use different language and tone to talk about the problem and how to solve it. If you are not providing solutions to the pandemic, you should focus on your product or service and the happiness it brings, or the enrichment your audience gains, by using it. In other words, focus on how it can improve and elevate your consumer’s current state of mind.
DO: Make sure to identify your brand’s role in the pandemic, and measure your response.
Unless you are a problem solver in the COVID space, don’t use the words, “COVID” or “pandemic” because you don’t want your brand to be associated with terms that may have a negative connotation. For the most part, the majority of businesses out there need to focus on what they bring to the table. Everyone knows the current situation – the public doesn’t need constant reminders in emails, press releases, Tweets or Instagram posts.
DON’T: center your brand’s identity around the pandemic.
Your audience is already wearing masks and living through reality –now, they want an escape. Your consumers want to know that there’s a better, post-pandemic experience in the days ahead. They don’t want to hear those trigger words in the messaging, because they don’t want to associate your brand with a time that many might rather forget.
Do amp up your frequency of communications and posts beyond pre-pandemic levels by 1.5 times or more. This applies to posts on social media, emails…everything – and make sure to make them selfless. Focus on how you want the viewer to feel, and not just what you want them to do or buy. That might mean delivering a quick moment of happiness – “Pick three things to do over the weekend to make you happy.” Stuff like this shows that you really care about the customer and that you have empathy – and you don’t have to mention the climate or the way they’re feeling. Instead, talk about the way you want them to feel. “We hope you pick three things that make you feel amazing this weekend, and we hope you’ll tag us in the things you enjoy.”
- DO: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Turn up the volume and let people know you understand how they’re feeling.
If you’re amping up communications, you don’t want them to be more “salesy” – you want them to make people feel good. Doing so strengthens the relationship between the customer and the brand, so stop focusing on sales and shift your focus toward compassion.
- DON’T: Make your messages about sales or conversions – make them about compassion.
Do have the courage to engage on all topics. If a conversation evolves into a controversial topic (COVID-19, BLM, etc.) don’t be afraid to engage. Even if you didn’t start a particular thread or conversation, don’t be afraid to discuss it, because it shows that you are not just a corporate entity – there are actual humans behind your brand, and humans care about other humans. So, engage in those conversations and be thoughtful about it, because both your brand AND consumers are vulnerable right now. That means you can have a more intense relationship than you’ve ever had because you are both exposed, vulnerable and ready to connect on a deeper level.
- DO: Speak up! Have a voice.
In fact, double-down on them. If it gets too intense for the public to see, take it offline. Tell the customer to DM you or send an email so you can discuss the topic further. From a PR perspective, don’t be afraid to weigh in on larger topics, even if you didn’t initiate such discussions yourself.
- DON’T: Act like nothing is happening or shy away from those tough, potentially polarizing conversations.
Do make your content rawer. Right now, everyone is used to Zoom® calls– we’re used to seeing people who look great from the neck up, but it’s safe to assume everyone might be wearing basketball shorts or flip-flops underneath. And everyone’s OK with that – right now, we’re getting used to the less-polished Instagram influencer; the less-filtered version of ourselves. The brands that are letting their guards down are connecting more, and because they are doing less production on the content-development side, they’re able to produce more solid, authentic and regular content elsewhere.
- DO: Be genuine and unfiltered.
Authenticity is way more important than perfection, and people relate to it more, too. They used to be able to go get a haircut, put in hours at the gym or project a professional appearance at work – but now, some folks aren’t doing any of those things. They’re going onto Zoom® calls and they’re projecting a more relaxed version of themselves – and content becomes more authentic in their doing so. Be more real. A lot of folks are working from home, so let’s talk about it. Most people aren’t dressing up and driving into work as they normally would, so don’t torture yourself trying to make everything look as it has in the past.
- DON’T: Torture yourself trying to make things pre-pandemic perfect.
Do double-down on the partners that share your audience. We’re not talking about competitors – instead, ask yourself: if someone is hiring your service or shopping for your product, what other products and services might be adjacent to yours? If you’re a candle company, for example, ask yourself what other lifestyle components your customers are purchasing on a regular basis. Where else are they shopping to complete that bigger picture?
Do: Focus on collaboration, not competition
Think about those potential audience-sharing partners and how you might be able to effectively tap into their database. Imagine if you were able to partner with three other businesses who shared your audience, but not in a competitive way. You’d be able to triple your audience immediately through a joint sale or a joint promotion. You’d all cross-promote at the same time and could organize a great partnership.
Pre-pandemic, this might have been an eyebrow-raising idea, but now, we’re all in this together and collaboration is key. If we can audience-share without being competitive, it’s a win-win-win across the board.
The anxiety you’re feeling as a business owner is not unique to you. Even your top competitors are having the same issues, questions and dilemmas, even if they are not showing it. So, you’re not alone in the grief or the strife, and you’re also not alone in terms of the opportunities for growth and building new partnerships that are available to you.
DON’T: Feel like you are in this alone.
You now have a chance to do more than just break even with where you were pre-pandemic – there’s also an opportunity for more collaboration than ever before. You can still make this year one of your best years yet. Think about all of the networking you have done since starting your business and make a list of the people who were your cheerleaders and colleagues along the way. Think of clever ways to collaborate and share your audiences and databases with them. If you have a database of 50,000 – 500,000 email addresses, your potential partner might, too – and that’s the audience you can reach out to instantly. So, go ahead – it’s time to make the call.
Authored by the team at AWE Collective, these guidelines give local companies an overview of how to engage and interact with their target audiences in a way that builds confidence, strengthens loyalty and streamlines the process as Arizona gets back to business.