How To Write Marketing Messages During COVID-19

How your business communicates now will play a direct role in your ability to retain customers later on.

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, we’ve all seen lots of people and businesses sharing online tips and advice on how to ‘stay sane’ while in lockdown. I’ve also been reading up on the latest insights from leading marketing and PR agencies on how to create crisis-aware marketing communications. I decided to pull together the best of these learnings, along with my own views on best-practice approaches for content creation during COVID-19.

If you’re one of my Instagram followers, you will have spotted my recent coronavirus content tips. Now, it’s important to mention here that NOBODY can profess to be a ‘pandemic communications expert’ because the last time anybody experienced anything like this was 100 years ago! We are all living through unprecedented times (HOW many times have you heard that being said lately?). What we can do is apply careful logic to what we say and how we say it.

If you follow my Facebook page, you may have seen last week’s Word of the Week feature – ‘Ultracrepidarian’, someone who has no special knowledge of a subject and yet expresses an opinion about it. We live in an age of ‘armchair experts’ and ‘keyboard warriors’, who often spout opinions without understanding the full context and looking beyond a very narrow point of view. Therefore, the most important learning I can share with you is to ALWAYS put yourself in someone else’s shoes. How might your customers be feeling at this time?

Tone deaf communications will turn your customers off.

Many years ago, whilst working for a large marketing services provider, a colleague turned to me and said to me, “Marketing is underpinned by common sense.” You don’t have to be a psychologist to see that insensitive wording isn’t going to strike a chord with your customers right now. Most advertising thought leaders seem to be suggesting a similar approach; be careful and considered.

Avoid ‘shouty’, blunt, overly upbeat marketing messages and time-pressured offers. Being too informal and over-familiar could be off-putting. Creating a false sense of urgency or scarcity, such as ‘hurry’ or ‘stock up’, could be deemed as wholly inappropriate. COVID-19 is an urgent situation. People’s priorities have changed over the past few months.

Our perception of ‘normal’ has changed. What we considered ‘essential’ or ‘critical’ three months ago may not be seen in the same way today. So, try not to imply that your products and services are ‘essential’ unless they really are!

The current climate means that what previously worked marketing-wise may not necessarily work right now. Using certain words in your marketing content could now be perceived as highly insensitive – for example, ‘killer deal’ or ‘health check’! Instead, stay relevant, mindful, and don’t write your content too far in advance. Be ready to continually adapt and realign your marketing messages and strategies, as changing situations unfold around us.

You can be serious without sounding too sombre. Use humour in your content very carefully and only in the right situations. Play safe by aiming for a positive, hopeful, optimistic, and uplifting approach to your marketing content with a gentle sprinkling of tasteful humour.

Your first step should be to review your current marketing content and check whether any of your sales messages could be seen as too pushy or overenthusiastic. Could any of your marketing messages be perceived in the wrong way?

Listen carefully to what your customers are saying.

Early on in my career, I worked for the NHS, and part of my job included creating patient information literature. A good tactic I used back then and still use today is to ask myself ‘how would I feel if I received that (marketing) message?’. If you’re unsure then ask others for their views. Ideally, ask your customers – could you invite them to give their feedback via a survey?

If it’s not possible to check your marketing with your customers, then ask your business contacts, partners, friends, and family members. They will all have slightly different perceptions of the same marketing message. Listen to their feedback, as this should be a good indicator of whether you’re striking the right chord with your marketing communications. Or, simply ask your trusted copywriter!

Successful marketing is the result of continuous test and measure. So, always get a second opinion before you send out or publish any marketing. Avoid knee-jerk reactions to what you are seeing online. People and businesses are getting things wrong and right, so now is the time to use your instincts. Weigh up how your customers are going to react to your marketing messages. What would they want to see? What wouldn’t they want to see?

If you’re not sure that you’re taking the right approach with your marketing messages, then just ask us for help. We’ve been writing both standard and marketing communications for over two decades.

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