Some Promotional Do’s, Don’ts and Considerations as We All Try to Navigate the COVID-19 Crisis
It’s easy to get downhearted about the state of the world in the middle of COVID-19’s madness. With social distancing measures, self-quarantines in place and a heightened sense of uncertainty all around, it can be hard to see the silver lining.
Although there’s reason to be optimistic that our new lifestyles can help slow the spread of this virus, it’s still requiring a lot from businesses all over the world. And, as always, laundry is on the front lines.
The suddenness of all of these changes has highlighted certain weaknesses with how some businesses market themselves, and perhaps how unprepared many are to address their communities at a time like this. None of us ever imagined we’d be here, but that’s not an excuse to act like everything is normal – especially not with marketing.
So, all things considered, I wanted to put together a simple guide to help you navigate your marketing, tone and approach to disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic. While you hopefully won’t have to use this advice for any other disasters, it can certainly help you navigate our current situation with tact, grace and empathy toward your community. Let’s take a look…
It’s Not About You
The COVID-19 disaster isn’t about you. It’s about a common enemy that we all must face, and how we move on as neighbors, communities, families and individuals. Self-promotion is tricky enough to begin with, but during a disaster it will almost inevitably rub people the wrong way. During a time like we’re experiencing now, focusing on only promoting your business comes off as fake, insincere and self-serving at the expense of those who are suffering. If you do anything right now, tone down the self-promotion and think about how you can help others instead.
Tone is More Important Than Ever
Bad tone is made worse right now. For many reasons, the radar for self-serving tone, dismissiveness or lack of empathy is at an all-time high in situations like this. Plenty of videos, tweets and photos have emerged in the last few weeks that call into question the integrity of businesses, celebrities and entrepreneurs – and whether you feel strongly about these instances or not, you can rest assured that your customers will care about what you say.
So, more than ever, how you sound is just as important as what you say. You need to take every step imaginable to avoid coming across as cringey, clichéd or gimmicky. As much as you may not want to pull the plug on an idea, you may need to. I’ve encountered one or two businesses that had projects that were months in the making that would have come across as dismissive – so the owners shelved those particular ideas until later.
All that said, a good, caring tone can have the opposite effect of what I mentioned above. Businesses – and the people behind them – that can show empathy and leadership during uncertain times resonate with their audiences. The right balance can win you customers for life, and possibly reach down generations.
Keep the Long Term in Focus
It’s so easy to look at the short term right now, especially because of the uncertainty the COVID-19 virus brings with it. Social distancing, fear of contracting the virus and a market that’s leaning toward a recession are forcing many of us to focus on today – and maybe tomorrow – but certainly not our long-term goals. All of us have seen fewer customers in the name of safety as well, and that impacts revenue and our sense of well-being.
I get all of that, but I encourage you to still look ahead at the long term. Traditionally, the laundromat business has been resilient in times like these, but that doesn’t mean you can neglect long-term plans for short-term security.
Keep developing your business and marketing goals. Keep building content. Keep running ads, investing in your community and finding ways to reach people. During the uncertainty is the time to invest in your marketing – not after.
Do everything you can to flatten the curve and ease the suffering of your community, and you’ll find that it’s a bigger investment in your long-term marketing than you could have imagined.
Don’t Make Everything About the Disaster
Open the news app on your phone right now, and I can guarantee about 90 percent of the headlines are related to COVID-19. Do the same with your social media, and you still get lots of COVID-19 posts (or people trying to alleviate their boredom). The feel of the virus is everywhere.
However, now more than ever, people need other content. If you make everything about the disaster, it will turn people off and they will look for a different distraction – and they’re right to do so. If all you consume is a diet of negative content, you’ll adopt a negative outlook. We need positive, helpful content that betters our lives (or at least distracts us) at a time like this.
Still communicate what you’re doing to help out, but find a balance between your COVID-19 content and other, valuable pieces of content. Remember: be helpful, add value and don’t overwhelm.
“Being human” in your marketing is a good tip in general, but it’s especially important right now. This is essentially another way to say “read the room.” Much like you wouldn’t pull out a sock puppet at a memorial service, maybe now’s not the time for a brand-heavy flash sale. Even if you’ve put in the legwork and built the perfect personas for your audience, the right messaging at the wrong time is still going to lead to a bad outcome.
People react differently to situations like this, and you have to remember that your personas aren’t necessarily built to navigate through these kinds of choppy waters. Bring the marketing back to “is this how I want to approach another human being?” instead of “is this how I want my brand to be known?” Speak how you’d want to be spoken to, and you’re going in the right direction.
Being human is also a reiteration of my previous words of caution – the things you say are going to come across differently when people are suffering. For instance, if your brand relies on humor, try toning it back a little. If you’re usually a bit more brash and honest, be gentler and show some care with how you approach messaging.
Together, We Are Heavy
One of our mantras at Spynr lately has been the phrase, “Together, we are heavy.” It’s a little truistic, but I want to lay it out plainly as it applies to your marketing (and all of our lives right now).
The idea is that when people work with each other, they can create real, meaningful change and impact the world around them more so than if they tried to do it by themselves. We see this principle in action all around us every day. When people join together toward a common goal, they inevitably accomplish more through cooperation and teamwork.
During a disaster, it’s a time to give, and then keep giving. This is about joining together and forging a legacy, not selling some extra loads of laundry. If our goal in life is to lift up others, then now is the perfect time to all join together in that effort. Although we can’t all be together in the same room, we can all make an effort to help those around us. In that way, we are heavy.
Great article Dennis. You hit the nail on the head.