The arrival of the coronavirus has revealed a lot about our society, our humanity and our ability to adapt in times of great uncertainty. Much of the change is being felt at a personal level as we navigate a new world of remote work, home schooling, supply shortages and social distancing. While that’s not the focus of this article, please know that it most certainly is the backdrop. Because with so much change and uncertainty at home, it can be difficult to know how to go about our business at work – and this is particularly true in the world of content.
As we at Cabral Communications read our emails and interact with clients in the high tech B2B space, we’ve been paying special attention to the shift that’s happening with content during these unprecedented times. Some companies have modified their messaging to focus purely on the crisis. Others have suspended their communications and gone silent. And a few have continued on with the delivery of their regularly scheduled programs. While there’s no right or wrong way to “do” content during a global pandemic, our close-knit team has learned a few things about adapting communications for a time of crisis – and we’ve put together a few tips.
#1: Start by Acknowledging the Reality and Gravity of the New Now
Whether you’re communicating with existing customers, cold leads or hot prospects, know that the top thing on their mind likely isn’t the next great technology solution – it’s this pandemic. We wouldn’t ignore that reality when striking up a conversation with a neighbor at the grocery store or on a video call with a relative we haven’t spoken to in a while. And we can’t neglect it when starting a content-driven conversation either. Begin by letting people know that you recognize what’s going on in the world and you’re giving this crisis its due respect. From there, it’s OK to pivot.
#2: Demonstrate Responsibility and Action – But Keep it Relevant
For many businesses, it’s really important to communicate the steps being taken to protect people from COVID-19. This is a must for organizations that need to have contact with the outside world. If you have installers working in the field or facilities that people need to visit, you absolutely must tell people how you’re going to keep employees, customers and the general public safe.
But the truth is that there’s a lot of content being delivered to the world that doesn’t really apply to its recipients, and that can cause people to tune out (or stress out). Think about whether or not your entire email list needs to know how frequently you’re cleaning the office or which employees are working from home. If your content isn’t communicating something relevant – it’s likely contributing to the noise.
#3: Create an Offer That’s Truly Altruistic
As marketers, we’re always thinking about an offer when we’re building content-driven programs and campaigns. But let’s face it, our offers tend to come with strings attached. We’ll trade an eBook for an email address or a webinar for a short sales pitch – but that’s not what we’re talking about here. If there has ever been a time to offer people something and ask nothing in return, it’s now.
Think about what your business can do to help its customers, partners and employees as they adapt to a truly dynamic time. It may be a free pressure test to be sure an organization’s network can handle more traffic or a short article that covers some security basics for remote workers. Whatever you have to offer people who are impacted by this crisis will not only be appreciated – it will make you and your whole organization feel great, too.
#4: Avoid These 7 Unintended Perception Pitfalls
We’ve all been in situations where our heart is in the right place, but the words we use don’t quite make it sound that way. On a good day that can result in a misunderstanding, but when communicating during a time of crisis it can do irreparable damage to your brand. Here are a few examples of unintentional perception pitfalls you’ll want to avoid within your content:
- Profiteering – If your content makes it look like you’re capitalizing on the crisis, change it
- Making Light – When your attempt at humor fails, it can be a really bad look
- Being Aloof – Don’t accidentally make it appear that you don’t care or have tuned out
- Misinforming – Double check your facts to be sure you’re not spreading falsehoods
- Going Negative – There’s enough doom and gloom on the news, keep it positive
- Retreating – Don’t inadvertently make it sound as though your business has given up
- Thinking Small – Remember, this is a global crisis and interpretations vary worldwide
While there’s never a good time for a misunderstanding, right now just might be the worst. It’s best to keep your communications clear, helpful and serious. There will be a time for clever and whimsical content again soon. But not yet.
#5: Check Your Automated Content Channels for Tone
By now, most marketers have deployed some level of automation to keep their nurturing, social media and retargeting efforts moving. Technology is amazing for driving your programs forward under normal conditions. But these conditions are anything but normal, and there’s a good chance that a headline, subhead or an entire piece of content that’s about to go live may not sound quite right against the backdrop of COVID-19. If you haven’t already done it, review your automated channels to be sure you’re not unintentionally coming across as tone deaf.
We know these tips aren’t going to solve the major issues you’re facing related to health, safety, anxiety and uncertainty. But since we’re a content shop, it’s what we have to offer – and we hope it helps in some small way. If you’re creating content related to COVID-19 and would like our perspective, please drop us a line. We’d be happy to give it a look with no strings attached.