Communicating and Coronavirus: Marketing’s Delicate Balance During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Since mid-April, REQ’s Editorial Services team has written more than 30 pieces of content, including articles, white papers, blog posts, and more. Out of those, I would estimate that about 80% have at least one reference to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve written about how the pandemic is affecting and will affect education, government, healthcare, and countless other industries. In every case, we’ve had to balance the need to inform and educate while not appearing to take advantage of a crisis that has adversely impacted businesses and individuals around the world.

Marketers who have been around for a while understand what I’m talking about. Just because the world has stopped doesn’t mean that business has. Anyone who worked immediately after the 9/11 attacks  can attest that you still need to promote your business even as things seem to be falling apart. And it’s how you do it that matters most.

A focus on empathy

The big difference with this novel coronavirus is that it isn’t a short-term event. COVID-19 isn’t here today, gone tomorrow. It has been and will be with us for a long time and it’s very likely that people and organizations will be dealing with it for months, if not years, to come.

What are we, as marketers, to make of this? How do we continue to tell our stories, but do so in a way that is sensitive and informative, rather than in a manner that risks being overtly promotional or even callous?

We can start by trying to understand, more than ever, the pain and challenges that customers are feeling right now. This isn’t a long-term digital transformation story; in most cases, this is a complete shock to the system. 

Clear, comforting, considerate messaging 

While certain sectors will undoubtedly experience tremendous growth as a result of our “new normal,” they would do well to temper their messaging and hone their communications to be helpful, informative, and empathetic. 

Businesses never want to be sold to, but that’s probably more true today than it was even earlier this year. Organizations understand that they have certain needs to fill – ramping up cybersecurity, for example, or providing tools that empower a newly distributed workforce. But many of those businesses might also be going through budget cuts and are certainly feeling their own pressures and stress points. More than ever, they need and deserve messages that are clear, comforting, and considerate.

As marketers, we have an opportunity to use this reset as a chance to tell more interesting stories that deeply resonate with what these customers (and all of us, really) are going through. We can still write about how a particular technology serves a specific need, for example, but we can tie that into the larger conversation that organizations are having about a post-COVID-19 world. We can ask how the technology will work and help businesses succeed in that world. Or, we can take things even further – what do we think that world will look like for a particular industry, and how can you navigate that change?

Doing our part to help

Some of our clients are already telling these stories and doing so effectively. They’re taking action, turning existing solutions that used to serve one purpose into services that can help organizations manage business in the current pandemic and in the months and years to come.

For our part, we’ve been busy taking those stories, putting them into words, and communicating them to our clients’ customers. I can honestly say that, as terrible as things have been over the past few months, our Editorial Services team has never written more interesting and inspirational content. I’m very proud of that team, and proud of our clients for making a difference and trusting us to tell their stories.

It isn’t easy, especially given the delicate nature of the subject matter. But it’s given us a chance, as marketers and writers, to do our part in helping organizations make sense of the world we live in and traverse whatever lies ahead.

Let’s talk.