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How to be a digital marketer in a COVID-19 world.

Navigating a global crisis without causing one for your PR and marketing teams.

published on
March 26, 2020

I never imagined my first day at Simon/Myers would take place at home, but that’s proof of just how quickly things can change overnight in a world hyperfocused on COVID-19. (And how fortunate I am that I can work remotely in the first place.) With the government declaring the internet as an essential service so we can continue to email, download, communicate, and stream amidst this crisis, we’ve never been more plugged in.

eMarketer reported this past week that time spent with all media, digital in particular, has risen as a result. It’s a trend likely to continue; the longer we stay at home, the more we turn to our newsfeeds in an effort to connect with a world we can no longer explore. 

People are increasingly anxious. Navigating social newsfeeds to avoid misinformation and fake news has become routine. An economic downturn is becoming harder to ignore. Local communities are grappling with taxed resources as their governments struggle to provide essential services, while also caring for those most vulnerable.  

Brands like AB InBev have taken notice, and action. Over the last few weeks, they’ve not only repurposed distilleries to make hand sanitizer, but redirected their $5M budget for sports and entertainment to directly support the American Red Cross. Examples like this are inspiring, but leave many marketers who work with more modest resources wondering what to do, and how marketing plans need to shift. Here’s some of our best advice on how to proceed:

  • No gesture is too small. Whether your brand is able to make a financial or material commitment to the right partner, or a piece of content that lifts spirits and lightens the mood, every little bit helps. We are all in this together, and your customers, clients, and community will thank you for showing solidarity.

  • Continue advertising, but QA campaigns. While it may feel strange to encourage shopping or prospect leads with fears of a recession looming, consumers and businesses with the ability and desire to spend now can help ease the impending financial distress. Especially for small businesses forced to shutter their doors, bringing in cash now is a matter of survival. For nonprofits, social media fundraising not only makes collecting donations accessible, but many platforms offer free tools and discounted advertising inventory. Make sure campaign messaging makes sense for the target audience, and won’t exacerbate anything negative unintentionally.

  • Increase support for community management. In a world living remotely, the frequency of inbound questions, comments, and customer service inquiries will increase. The last thing you want is to seem unresponsive to your audience when they’re hyperactive online — and in need. If you’re short-staffed, consider ways automation can help triage inbound communications on platforms like Facebook Messenger. For B2B companies, it’s especially important to make sure sales teams have the digital tools they need to communicate effectively with prospects and clients.

  • Streamline corporate communications. While it’s always been a best practice of PR to keep a pulse on the headlines, it’s now essential. If your brand has upcoming releases planned, give them a once-over to ensure the tonality that was written months ago will work tomorrow. At a bare minimum, and to avoid looking overly self-promotional, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve communicated how your brand is supporting its employees. Reinforcing the importance of allowing employees to work remotely cannot be overstated.

While the novel coronavirus has presented new challenges for marketers, the age-old practice of compassion remains the same. In times like these, our content is an opportunity for our brands to be more human, offering support, encouragement, and motivation when we need it most.

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