With the latest Coronavirus update, Australia and the world at large is entering a period of extreme uncertainty. Government regulations, socialisation restrictions and economic forecasts we have not seen in our lifetime are impacting every industry, with many businesses going into damage control to reduce the potential impact over the coming months.
As Australia moves towards a lockdown, social media platforms and online publications will be our biggest connections with our community – and Facebook is already reporting a higher than usual uptake as social isolation is on the rise across the globe. This presents an opportunity for brands to ‘stay in the game’ and continue engaging their audiences online, but there’s a fine line between keeping morale up and capitalising on a global pandemic.
While this situation is highly unprecedented and we’re all wading through these uncharted waters together, we have developed some guiding principles to help our clients (and ourselves) engage with audiences during this time.
Don’t stick your head in the sand
Unless you’re in an industry that is called out directly by the government regulations or pose a high risk to the public, it may not be necessary to send out daily updates on the situation or your response. It is however important to acknowledge the current climate and how you can continue to support your audiences during the pandemic. This can be as simple as an eDM, LinkedIn or social media post letting your customers or stakeholders know how your business is reacting and the measures you’re putting in place to support your staff. It’s also important to alert them if any of your services may be affected in this time and how you’re working to maintain them in the coming year.
Be respectful with your ads
It has never been more important to ‘read the room’ when planning your content and review the tone and content of your ads. Is it relevant to the current climate? Is it empathic to your audience’s situation? Run a careful eye over your copy for any seemingly playful phrases that could be misinterpreted. The public are looking for good news stories, but overly joyful visuals can be a bit jarring in the current climate. Promoting your coronavirus update itself can also rub your audience the wrong way so consider whether it is truly urgent before you amplify. Review everything three times before posting, just to be safe.
Prepare to pivot
From the arts sector to sports, we’ve seen some of our biggest industries crumble in the past weeks. How you’re able to adapt is a strong sign of stability and resilience, so contingency planning should be a part of every conversation. Sure, nobody wants to plan for the worst, but by considering these options you just may develop a solution that could be even better for your business. From live streamed events to delivery services, this could be an opportunity for your business to evolve in ways you never expected.
Shake up your strategy
While you’re pivoting your offering, make sure your strategy is agile so you can respond to the needs of your brand in this time. Customer-focussed and real-world conversions might need to be replaced with brand awareness strategies. Or focus on educational content that answers some of your audience’s biggest questions in isolation. All businesses are preparing for impact, particularly those in service-based industries, so building a strong brand foundation and stating in front of mind now can help support your business in the second half of the year.
Don’t be a digital drain
The most important thing right now is that you’re being supportive: to your customers, your suppliers and your employees. We’re all going to get incredibly fatigued by any mention of COVID-19 this year, so even if you’re sharing content that feels relevant to these times, it may be best if you just leave the obvious thing unsaid and keep the COVID out of your captions. As much as possible, allude to the situation without spelling it out. For example, when you talk about spending more time at home, the public will understand the background without needing to be reminded about the virus.
It can be difficult to feel positive when we’re faced with uncertainty about our futures and fistfights over toilet paper, but as content marketers we have an amazing capacity to support our online communities in this time, as long as the tone and strategy is right. For brands, consumers will want to be entertained, educated and inspired in the coming months, giving us plenty of opportunities to connect with them. After all, there’s only so much Netflix each person can binge.