The world is in the midst of an unprecedented situation: The coronavirus has people and organizations in every country struggling to stay healthy and informed. The pandemic is presenting new challenges for nearly every industry, and the marketing and communications industry isn’t exempt.
During these trying times, it’s more important than ever for brands to communicate clearly and conscientiously. You want to put customers at ease, not perpetuate fear.
Below are three tips for ensuring your marketing strategy provides customers with the information they need during a difficult moment. We’ve also shared emails from businesses that really stand out.
Need to know, not nice to know
Right now, people are desperate for quality information — on how to stay safe, on the latest rules and regulations, on the latest medical stats relating to coronavirus. For that reason, any marketing and communications you send out must be need-to-know, not nice-to-know. In short: Don’t drown your audience in a sea of irrelevant messages.
Is your business closing its doors for the foreseeable future, or shifting to virtual operations? Are you providing free products or services for those in need? Business continuity and support details like this are relevant information your customers can use. Is your business planning to open a new location in 2021, or have you recently hired a new VP? That’s news that can wait. But, if you’ve hired a new medical director and they have a relevant message for the here and now, that’s news you can share.
In mid-March, the utility Con-Ed sent a concise but informative email to customers. “Here’s what you need to know,” they wrote, followed by five quick bullet points. Among them? An update that service shutoffs are suspended during the pandemic, and information on how to arrange payment extensions. The email could be read in fewer than two minutes — something we can all appreciate during a harried time.
Now is a good time to remember that people do business with people. In any newsletters, advertisements, or other marketing materials you’re publishing, be mindful of what others are going through. A couple things not to do? Don’t set and forget social media content days in advance that could appear insensitive in this rapidly-changing environment. And don’t make light of the situation — many of your customers and customers’ loved ones could be in danger.
When Delta Airlines sent an email to customers on March 15, one of the first items addressed was its efforts to protect customers who have to fly during the pandemic. “You have my promise that our team is going above and beyond the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to ensure your safety,” wrote CEO Ed Bastian. “We are building on an ever-present focus on cleanliness and continually assessing ways to enhance your safety throughout the travel experience.”
When hotel giant Hilton sent an email two days prior, the company also stressed mindfulness. “At Hilton, we believe it is in challenging times like these that the power of hospitality is needed most of all,” penned President & CEO Chris Nassetta, noting that staff are enacting new safety protocols, and that Hilton has paused expiration of customer points.
Now isn’t the time to be vague or opaque — customers have enough to deal with. If you have to pare back services, delay shipping, or implement any other changes to the way you do business, let customers know. People appreciate transparency during uncertain times, so make yourself perfectly clear.
In a March email from insurer Geico, the company assured customers of just this: “It is our intent to remain transparent, providing the latest information from GEICO here,” Geico wrote, linking to a website that shares best practices for tracking a claim or managing a policy. Geico was also up front about the impact of coronavirus on its customer service: “Call wait times may be longer than usual,” they wrote.
In a note to their customers, Ally Bank provided readers with a resource on how the coronavirus is impacting personal finance. “If you’re interested in learning more about the current economic situation, check out our guide for staying calm and carrying on during any financial climate,” the bank wrote.
During these difficult times, each and every communication a brand sends is under intense scrutiny — as it should be. Whether you’re a small business with an email list of 100, or an international brands with an email list in the millions, it’s imperative not to panic, and to provide useful information that your customers will appreciate.