Watch What You Say During a Pandemic

May 2020

The other week a client asked me to craft a message to customers after the company made a major pivot. The change in direction meant unusual partnerships and new priorities. It also meant layoffs and inventory shortages in coming weeks. “Make sure it reflects sensitivity and compassion,” a key executive urged.

A lot of companies continue to do something similar in their respective regions and industries. Their messaging is clear: We’re still open for business, but not business as usual. We’re still committed to exceptional service, even during these exceptional times. We’re following CDC guidelines, despite such precautions posing potential delays.

We’ve all received messages like these in the past two months since the COVID-19 outbreak locked us all in our homes. In fact, we’ve received so many such messages that after a while they lose their impact and maybe go unread. But these emails, ads and social media posts need to be sent. And the choice of words and images need to convey empathy and acknowledge current economic conditions.

What doesn’t work, particularly for B2B marketing, is communicating day in, day out like pre-pandemic times. These tone-deaf campaigns pushed through emails and social media come across as crass, offensive pitches. Do these companies and solopreneurs believe if we all act as if everythings normal, it will be?

You can always unsubscribe from mailings or stop following the feeds of people who fall into this category. If you have a personal relationship, you might send a private message explaining how their content marketing may be perceived as inappropriate, insensitive. Be kind and professional about it. It’s always possible if it’s a corporate account that someone is following orders. Give them evidence to show their team this tact isn’t working.

There are so many stories worth sharing during unprecedented times like these. Like the Idaho potato farmer with too much product after he lost his restaurant buyers. Rather than let the spuds rot, he went on social media to invite people to come and get as many potatoes as they needed so the crop wasn’t a complete waste. He expected to see his rural neighbors pull up; not trucks from as far as Kansas, New York and Las Vegas, all hoping to transport the utilitarian vegetable back to their local food banks. Other farmers and grocers have followed suit. Now that’s viral marketing with a purpose!

I highlight this particular slice of recent life because the story conjures a mix of emotions, but ultimately leaves a positive imprint. It’s hopeful, even if we’re reminded of how many now go hungry. It guides my own vision and word choices while developing fitting content marketing for our clients.

Everyone by now should be developing and deploying new content marketing strategies that reflect both the pain and the promise in the world in which we now live and work. We have a new ebook to help guide those creating content around these new campaigns. Let’s use the power of marketing to assure people that they are not alone in their fear and their frustrations. Let’s ease a little anxiety by letting everyone know we’re here if you need us. Let’s together send a message.