As publicists, brand marketers and agency owners, many of us are not prepared for coronavirus. Most of us have never lived during a pandemic, let alone personally experienced one. This is where crisis communications training will become invaluable. We are used to helping clients with short term PR fiascos or crisis com issues. But make no mistake—we must prepare for an ongoing crisis. This will not be a crisis that will go away any time soon. As marketers, don’t keep marketing with your head in the sand.
In the agency world, how marketers handle coronavirus will separate the pros from the amateurs. Remember when everyone thought they could buy social media services for a few hundred dollars because their kid in college could do it? Now this will reset the playing field.
This will be a time when it will suddenly be glaringly obvious why certain agencies charge a premium for marketing and PR services. The bottom of the barrel marketers will keep marketing through this as if nothing is going on. Their posts will be tone deaf. They will not pause scheduled tweets or pre-written content for campaigns and will continue to market as if we were still living in a pre-Coronavirus digital environment.
The premium agency pros, however, will know now is the time to pause and reflect. Strategy means knowing when to stay silent just as much as it means knowing what to post and when. Clients may hem and haw and ask, “What am I paying you for if you aren’t going to post anything?” They are paying you because you know the difference between when to shout from the rooftop and when to be quiet.
Do not use this as a cheap marketing ploy to get more customers for your brand. Unless you are a medical professional, tread lightly with the content you put out. This means doing a total 360 on your social media marketing strategy. Now is not the time to share the beautiful creative you had prepared 90 days out. Save it for another day or another quarter.
Coronavirus will impact every sector and industry, including marketing, public relations and social media.
How do we market and publicize in a post coronavirus environment where every other story is about COVID19? What we can say that is helpful? Brands can’t stay silent forever, so when is a good time to inject your brand into the conversation?
We need to understand the changing needs of consumers and their emotional state of mind, and we must take that into consideration when marketing to them. If people are afraid, now is not the time to pretend they aren’t. Additionally, it is also not the time to market to a state of fear or panic. You must walk a fine line.
If you are in PR, don’t try to hijack the news as a public relations hook to get increased brand mentions. Probably only 1% of people will get it right while the other 99% will get it wrong and suffer irreparable brand damage. People will remember how you handle your marketing during this time. The risk of a negative brand association is far greater than the upside of a positive brand association. If you don’t have anything to contribute to the conversation, stay quiet. It is better to stay quiet than to contribute noise.
Pause your scheduled tweets. Ramp up your customer service on social media. If you are in the travel sector, people will be tweeting at your brand for refunds or cancellation policies at a higher volume. You must be prepared to service these requests with your social media team.