Digital marketing, crisis communications, and COVID-19

This post is part of TBH Creative's series on digital marketing, crisis communications, and COVID-19.

COVID-19
I was not prepared for COVID-19. Can you relate?

But here we are—each of us working our own way through this “new way of life” which is filled with new ways of doing business, new responsibilities at home, and new everyday stresses.

Here at TBH, one of the biggest things that has taken my focus lately is this question:

What can we do to help our clients with their marketing during this crisis? How can we help them stand out and communicate well?

I’m sure you are thinking about how you can better serve your customers, too. Even if you are a well-established business with a crisis communications plan in place, this situation is different and bigger. COVID-19 is affecting all of us, and its universal impact (and ambiguous end date) is creating unique challenges—and opportunities to rethink the status quo.

Over the past few weeks, TBH Creative’s team has been working on crisis communication projects for clients in a variety of industries. We have been taking notes of great marketing examples and reading as much as we can find about how to effectively communicate during a crisis.

This post kicks off our series of articles about crisis communications. We’ll be sharing best practices, crisis communication examples, free resources, and other crisis marketing tips.

Crisis communication recommendations

1. Include a COVID-19 update on your website

At a minimum, you should update your website with basic information to inform users of anything you are doing differently because of COVID-19. That does not mean COVID-19 needs to become the main button in your navigation, but consider giving this information (or a link to this information) prominent placement on your home page, contact page, and other key pages where related information may be present.

Then, add additional resources or service information where applicable.
Pro tip: When planning your crisis communications on your website, be strategic and remember your user. Are they coming to your site to see if you are still open? Are they coming for new/updated contact information? Do you have a service or product that might solve a need and should be promoted more prominently? Your website changes should be made to address the needs of your audience.

2. Address customer concerns, humanize your communications, and adapt your messaging

Review all of your marketing messages. Is the tone still right? The timing?

Automated emails or pre-scheduled automated social posts created weeks in advance may—at best—no longer be appropriate or—at worst—come off as tone-deaf or off-putting. Take a fresh look at any outgoing communications and adjust for your audience’s current mindset.

Small tweaks to your message can go a very long way. Tweak your messaging to:
  • Offer something helpful
  • Communicate safety measures
  • Connect with current emotions and struggles, or
  • Provide hope and support
Here are some notable examples:

Nike

Nike started encouraging quarantining and social distancing on social media in March. They posted their already famous brand swoosh along with the message, “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the world.” They went even further to create and offer new inside workout resources and livestream workouts.

Cottonelle

Cottonelle delivered a message to ease shortage concerns and remind us that we’re not alone with their “stock up on generosity”  charitable campaign #ShareASquare, launched in partnership with the United Way.

3. Update your Google My Business profile

Google search is widely used and your Google Business profiles should be updated with pertinent changes in your business. Updating these listings may be just as important as adding the notices on your website that I mentioned in #1. Remember that some users will not get past the search results to your page and are looking for answers, especially store hours, closings, and contact information.

To make this easier, Google has created a special COVID-19 Post category that enables businesses to include changes to how they are operating, special hours and temporary closures, requests for support, and safety and hygiene-related updates.

Pro Tip: Google has temporarily disabled the addition of new reviews to Google My Business profiles. This doesn’t mean you have to stop your reputation management, though. Use this pause as an opportunity to gather feedback on other platforms.

Free resources for better marketing

One positive during this pandemic has been seeing businesses help out. Many marketing and software companies are stepping up to assist during this time of crisis too.

Here are some notable resources. (Note: Be sure to check each source carefully in case timelines or eligibility details have changed.)

Paid advertising

Google
Google is offering $340 million dollars in paid ad credits to small- and medium-sized businesses. These grants can be used toward future advertising.

Eligibility requirements: Small and medium-sized businesses who have spent with a Google Ads account in ten out of twelve months of 2019, and in January and/or February of this year.

Facebook 
Facebook launched a new small business program to provide $100M in grants and ad credits to 30,000 businesses in the 30 countries where Facebook operates.

Eligibility requirements: Small businesses between 2 and 50 employees who have been in business for over a year and have experienced challenges from COVID-19. The program is limited to those in or near a location where Facebook operates.

Search engine optimization

SEMrush is offering free access to its social media and lead generation products including the full functionality of its Social Media Toolkit and Oppty.

Eligibility requirements: N/A; SEMrush has been providing free access to all products since April 1, 2020.

Keep your eye on our blog (or subscribe to our email newsletter) for additional resources, examples, and insights related to crisis communications.

Consider the coronavirus crisis as a reason to think again about your digital communications and explore ways you can better connect with your customers and build community and trust.  Now, more than ever, you need to craft your marketing around their needs.

Start with how you can help your target audiences, and go from there. You aren’t alone. As we’ve been saying here in the state of Indiana, we’re #INthistogether. If TBH Creative can help you with your COVID-19 crisis communications, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Need help with crisis communications? Let’s talk
See more of our crisis communication series:
Tatum

About the author | Tatum Hindman

Tatum is the president of TBH Creative and is responsible for building long-term client relationships. She enjoys the strategy behind web design and collaborating with clients to define and execute online marketing goals. She likes to blog about hot topics in web design and digital marketing, as well as share tips for strengthening your online presence.

View more posts by Tatum

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