WWTT? Ad Council and Partners Remind You to #StayHome and Save Lives

It’s another week spent working from home, practicing social distancing, and doing what we can to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic. And to help spread the word, the Ad Council has teamed up with a bevy of partners to show people why they need to #StayHome in order to save lives.

It’s another week spent working from home for many of us here in the States, practicing social distancing, and doing what we can to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic, as directed by guidelines from the CDC and WHO. During an interview with TODAY’s co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, Dr. Anthony Fauci weighed in:

“The real data are telling us that it is highly likely that we’re having a definite positive effect by this mitigation, things that we’re doing — this physical separation … But having said that, we better be careful that we don’t say, ‘OK, we’re doing so well we can pull back.’ We still have to put our foot on the accelerator when it comes to the mitigation and the physical separation.”

Dr. Fauci’s message is important, and comes one day after the announcement of a major initiative from the Ad Council. Known for its long history of creating public service communications in times of national crisis, the Ad Council in partnership with Google, ANA, and other leading advertising, media, and marketing associations came together to bring forth the “#StayHome. Save Lives.” movement.

#StayHome builds on the #AloneTogether PSA platform previously created by ViacomCBS, and both efforts support the importance of social distancing during the pandemic.

Google created “roof” iconography that can be added to brands’ logos, and there are myriad creative assets available in broadcast and digital video, social media, radio, print, and out of home (OOH) formats. All assets drive audiences to www.coronavirus.gov, a centralized resource from Health and Human Services (HHS) and the CDC that provides up-to-date information about COVID-19.The creative toolkit is full of #AloneTogether assets, which the #StayHome movement further amplifies. There are multiple asset options per channel, and honestly makes it beyond simple to jump in, spread the word, and do your part. I was really impressed by the variety of assets, as well as the additional social copy, overview documents, and more. Seriously. It’s so easy.

#StayHome #AloneTogether print marketing to combat COVID-19
Courtesy of The Ad Council

Of course, there are also some Dos and Don’ts that marketers need to commit to if they’re going to take part. From the #StayHome overview document:

DO integrate the “#StayHome. Save Lives.” message and iconography across your communication touchpoints, beginning Wednesday April 8.

DO share and support the existing #AloneTogether PSA assets in conjunction with the #StayHome hashtag and message.

DON’T use the #StayHome messaging and materials in conjunction with any commercial marketing messages, or you risk appearing opportunistic.

DON’T just post once on April 8 and stop. We hope you’ll join us in amplifying the #StayHome message that day, then continue to reinforce this important messaging in the weeks ahead.

The following is just a smattering of the 30-plus brands, agencies, and media companies made commitments to begin using the #StayHome creative assets on April 8:

  • Ally Financial
  • AMC Networks
  • Google/YouTube
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • IBM
  • OKCupid
  • Oreo
  • Postmates
  • Reddit
  • Roku
  • Twitter
  • ViacomCBS

The following trade association partners and groups also have encouraged all their members to join the #StayHome movement:

  • American Advertising Federation (AAF)
  • Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM)
  • American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As)
  • Association of National Advertisers (ANA)
  • Digital Content Next
  • International Advertising Association (IAA)
  • Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)
  • Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)
  • News Media Alliance
  • Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA)
  • PTTOW!
  • Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB)
  • Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB)
  • Video Advertising Bureau (VAB)

Commenting upon the effort, ANA CEO Bob Liodice stated:

“There is no more important message that we can deliver but to #StayHome. Save Lives. I urge all ANA members to join this effort and drive home this point to their staffs, to their consumers, to customers and, especially, to Millennials. Everyone needs to do their part to fight the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home. We’re holding hands with the Ad Council, Google and all of our sister trade associations to make a difference in our nation’s fight against this pandemic.”

Millennials have been called upon multiple times to focus on social distancing … but as many tired Millennials have pointed out in knee jerk-fashion, we’re a bit too old for Spring Break, and most of us haven’t been in the partying mood (then the finger points to Gen Z). But, as Dr. Deborah Birx explained, the Millennial generation (born 1981-1996) is good at sharing information widely, and that’s why we’re the generation to lead the cause.

Either way, this is a global pandemic that goes beyond the generational divide when it comes to sharing important info, in my opinion. We are all in this, and we all need to do our part, and I think this effort by the Ad Council and their partners is a good step forward, pairing the #StayHome movement with #AloneTogether.

Because we can do this. We have to do this. And we can do it together … while staying apart.

 

WWTT? Bud Light Promotes #OpenForTakeout During COVID-19

We’ve all heard about breweries and distilleries making hand sanitizer, as well as automakers producing medical equipment. But for this week’s “What Were They Thinking?” I have something a little different, but important: a campaign from Bud Light that supports the restaurant and bar industry, badly hit by COVID-19.

March 2020  which felt like it was a year long  is finally over. However, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over; many of us are staying at home under order of our local, state, or national governments, and doing the best we can personally and professionally. Through it all, it’s been uplifting to see communities come together to support each other (of course, while practicing the phrase of the year: social distancing), as well as the myriad brands stepping up and away from business as usual to also do their part.

We’ve all heard about breweries and distilleries shifting production to hand sanitizer, as well as automakers realigning their plants to produce the much needed medical equipment that healthcare workers need. These are such important stories, which have been covered a lot (as they should be). But for this week’s “What Were They Thinking?” I have something a little different, yet still important: a campaign from Bud Light in an effort to support the restaurant and bar industry, badly hit by COVID-19.

Our local restaurants and bars feed us; give us a place to come together with friends and family; and they make up so many of the important small businesses in our communities. While some have had to shutter, there are others who have managed to stay open (again, depending on local and state regulations here in the U.S.), offering takeout and delivery options. And this is where Bud Light steps in.

On Mar. 25, Bud Light debuted a new campaign, “Open for Takeout.” Powered by Bud Light, the new website encourages those establishments still open within the restaurant and bar industry to submit their info to be included on the website. The site’s focus is to help consumers across the U.S. locate spots that are #OpenForTakeout, while still practicing safe social distancing.

While money might be tough for a lot of people right now, there are those individuals who do have the spare cash for a takeout meal, which means Bud Light using their extensive reach can go a long way in extending the reach of the restaurant and bars they aim to help.

For me personally, there are at least 157 restaurants or bars within a 10-mile radius of my ZIP code, which gives me a lot of options after being cooped up all day in front of a computer and having no desire to cook (it happens from time to time).

Bud Light also is diverting some of their media spend to drive awareness of this consumer resource, offering added visibility for #OpenForTakeout, and their parent company, Anheuser-Busch has the following initiatives planned to support other COVID-19 efforts:

  • $5 million donation to the American Red Cross, as well as the donation of media air time to the Red Cross for PSAs.
  • Working alongside sports partners, Anheuser-Busch will identify available arenas and stadiums to be used for temporary blood drive centers.
  • The company’s tour centers in St. Louis, Mo. and Merrimack, NH will be made available to the Red Cross.
  • Anheuser-Busch’s supply and logistics network will produce and distribute bottles of hand sanitizer. The hand sanitizer will be used at Red Cross blood donation centers, as well as in an effort to support shelters for future relief efforts.

This partnership between the macro brewer and the Red Cross is, again, just another example of brands stepping away from business as usual, and considering what they can do with the resources and talent they have to play a role in the fight against the pandemic.

As for Bud Light’s initiative, this is personal for me (and I’m sure many others). I’m fortunate to know a lot of wonderful people in Philadelphia’s vibrant food and drink scene, and it crushes me to see so many of them out of work, many fighting to obtain unemployment, uncertain of their futures, and the restaurants and bars that once employed them facing the heartbreaking question of if they’ll ever be able to open their doors again.

I hope Bud Light’s Open for Takeout campaign truly helps those in the restaurant and bar industry across the country who are still open and feeding their local communities.

And finally, in my previous post from a couple weeks ago, I looked at two well-done email messages about COVID-19 that hit my inbox. Some readers shared publicly in the comments, as well as privately in emails to me, about what they had worked on and the response received, as well as about some of the good pieces they received themselves.

Feel free to keep commenting, and send me messages about what you’ve seen and done as well. As I’ve said, now is the time for sharing good news, and celebrating the little victories.

Remote Workflow Crash Course: Best Practices for Working From Home

So here we are. Whether by government mandate or executive fiat, at some point in the past few weeks the brand you and your team usually work on from a company office landed in your living room. It probably happened suddenly, in many cases with almost no time to prepare. So here are a few suggestions to point you in the right direction as you adjust to a remote workflow.

[Editor’s Note: While this piece was written for the publishing audience over at our sister brand, Publishing Executive, we know marketers have remote workflow issues to deal with as well. We think this article is relevant to our marketing audience, and hope it offers some additional advice as you navigate these uncertain times]

So here we are. Whether by government mandate or executive fiat, at some point in the past few weeks the publication you and your team usually write, edit, produce, market, and distribute from an office landed in your living room. It probably happened suddenly, in many cases with almost no time to prepare. And you may have discovered – quickly – that the workflow underpinning the whole operation did not make the transition with you.

There may be a lot of scrambling going on, so here are a few suggestions to point you in the right direction as you work on getting a remote workflow in place. The good news is that, once you make the transition to a digital workflow, life will improve. Possibly dramatically and probably fast. It is even likely that your remote workflow will become your regular workflow once you are back in the office.

Step 1: Assess the Damage         

You can’t fix what you can’t see. The only way to fix a broken workflow is to make it visible and start to tinker.

If you are the boss, bring everybody together in a virtual space of some kind and map the workflow you currently have. Identify problems together. Your job is to ask your team what they need and give it to them; their job is to brainstorm and implement solutions.

Step 2: Address Skills Training

Now that everyone is working from home, everyone needs to be self-sufficient with regard to technology. That means there may be skills gaps to address.

My go-to tech tools, which are simple and accessible to most people, are Zoom (useful to connect face-to-face, share screens, and host meetings), Google Docs (a group editing tool in which multiple people can make changes and comments in real time), Trello (allows list-making, process-tracking, and tagging for assignments), and Slack (useful for internal team communication).

Find out up front who is familiar with what, and how much each individual thinks they can handle. Then ask those who have more skills to bring those with fewer up to speed. Publicly document and track each person’s skill set as it evolves and make sure to celebrate improvements!

Step 3: Stop Emailing Documents

Immediately. Most of us no longer print out paper proofs and documents and send them around for colleagues to review, but emailing multiple rounds of PDFs so everyone can sign off on text changes is essentially the same thing. I’ve seen editors add weeks to an editing process as they lobbed a manuscript back and forth on email, and the lack of transparency means no one can ever be sure what state the text is in.

Use Google Docs or some other cloud-based tool to edit, and make the link available to everyone on your team. Use Slack for intra-team communication. And lead by example: I also once watched two CEOs stretch a two-day editing job into four months then wonder why their employees worked slowly.

Step 4: Create Checklists and Standards

Each part of your remote workflow should have a checklist and a set of standards. They should be available online so the whole team can access and update them as things change. (Do not keep these documents on paper; none of the dozens of paper standard books I’ve seen in 20 years were less than two years old.)

Consistently adhering to checklist procedures and applying standards simplifies and increases output per person. The New Yorker just produced their first completely remote issue essentially by following the rules – stored in checklists and standard documentation – that they created for each part of their workflow.

Step 5: Add Structure

Many editors are used to seeing exactly how a text will flow as they work on it, and continue to make small adjustments until the very end of the production process. This can create delays in an office setting and all-out chaos when remote.

The solution is shared access to a text for everyone who needs it, keeping editorial review and sign-off as far upstream as possible (in Google Docs). This allows copy editors to read rather than constantly reread the text, production people to make things fit only once, and I have yet to meet an art department that isn’t thrilled to avoid last-second changes. If you are an EIC who wants to reread entire articles, simply do so in the Google Doc stage like everybody else.

Step 6: Put Content First

Essentially, this involves each story working its way through the editing process as a single Google Doc. Everyone contributes to that document, and it includes all revisions, comments, research links, and images. The simplicity virtually eliminates the time and effort required to prepare content for specific channels, and anyone responsible for distributing that particular story – in print, on the web, on social media, or in audio form – need only verify that the text they are working with matches the master copy.

If web headlines, keywords, and social headings go through the same process before being routed to their respective channels, any fixes are made only once. It’s much easier to maintain consistency and fact checking is a breeze.

Step 7: Step Back

It may feel like a leap of faith, especially in a remote setting, but it’s important to give your workflow permission to operate. Make sure your people have the tools and skills they need, keep the communication channels open, and let them do their jobs.

These practices will pay dividends: One of my clients was able to reduce the lead time between idea and reader from four weeks to four hours. In another case, six editors now take less than three hours to write, edit, check, post, and send a weekly newsletter. America Media group-edits each text, allowing queries and changes to happen simultaneously, and the many hours (if not days) it once took to do exactly the same thing on paper have been reduced to minutes.

Most telling of all, America’s workflow has been fully digital for four years, and when the coronavirus closed their offices two weeks ago, the tweet from their EIC read: “Readers and subscribers should expect to receive their print issues as usual. Digital coverage will be similarly unaffected.”

The Grand Reopening of the U.S. Economy Will Happen, Plan for It

We are in uncharted territory, much as we were in previous economic downturns and recessions. Yet, do know, another expansion will follow … eventually. There will be a grand reopening of our economy, and as marketers, we need to plan for it.

I love defaulting to optimism – even in the darkest of times. It’s been part of my survival mechanism through all sorts of crises. That being said, we are in uncharted territory in this new normal, much as we were in previous economic downturns and recessions. “The Great Recession” of 2008-2009 was largely Wall Street born and Main Street slammed. But remember, the Great Expansion followed. A possible recession stemming from COVID-19, however, would be largely reversed, with millions of livelihoods suddenly denied, and both Main Street and Wall Street being slammed in tandem. Yet, do know, another expansion will follow … eventually. There will be a grand reopening of our economy, and as marketers, we need to plan for it.

Listening to the U.S. President talk about getting parts of our country back to some semblance of normal by Easter may seem wild-eyed and some might say irresponsible. In reality, China is reportedly already back on line – after six-to-eight weeks of paralysis. Does this mean a possible “V-shaped” recession (very short), a “U-shaped” one (mild), or an “L-shaped” one (long term)? We don’t know.

It’s always dangerous to make prognostications, but we can learn from patterns elsewhere in the virology. With the United States now the most afflicted nation in sickness, we yet have a massive fight ahead to control viral spread. And doubt and fear have taken hold as two debacles have come about, one public health and one economic.

Unfortunately, there is no “on/off” switch for the viral crisis. Even when its spread is curtailed, which will happen, we’ve been shaken and edginess is going to remain. That’s only human.

Patterns of consumption will not resume as if nothing happened. Unemployment shocks will not reverse as easily as they came. So there will be a “new” normal.

However, a reopening is coming. You might say that’s my optimism, but folks – we are going to be okay in a time. It may not be of our choosing, as Dr. Fauci faithfully reports, but one that will be here nonetheless. As marketers, let’s get ready for it.

Look to Your Data to Prepare for What’s Next

Recessions are actually good times to look to the enterprise and get customer data “cleaned up.” The early 90s recession gave us CRM, and database marketing flourished. The end of the Internet 1.0 boom in 2000 brought data discipline to digital data. And the Great Recession brought data to the C-suite.

So let’s use this time to do a data checkup. Here are four opportunities:

  1. Data audits are often cumbersome tasks to do – but data governance is a “must” if we want to get to gain a full customer view, and derive intelligent strategies for further brand engagement. Quality needs to be the pursuit. Replacing cookie identification also is a priority. Understand all data sources to “upgrade” for confidence, accuracy, privacy, and permissions.
  2. March 15 might be a good date to do an A/B split with your customer data inputs – pre-virus and during-virus. What new patterns emerged in media, app usage, mobile use and website visits? Are you able to identify your customers among this traffic? If not, that’s a data and tech gap that needs to be closed.
  3. Customer-centricity or data silos? It’s always a good time to tear down that silo and integrate the data, yet sometimes healthy economic growth can mask this problem. Use the recessions to free up some time to actually get the work done.
  4. Test new data and identity solution vendors to increase match rates across your omnichannel spectrum – to better create a unified view of audiences, both prospects and customers. I’ve already seen one of my clients come up with a novel offer to analyze a subset of unidentified data to drive a substantive lift in matches.

As we work remotely, it’s important to understand that this current state of crisis is not a permanent state. Only once the virus is conquered, on its weaknesses not ours, can we really have any timetable to resume the economy. That being the health science, it just makes great business sense now to “stage” your data for that eventual Grand Reopening.

Trust Capital Is the New Marketing Gold Standard

Now, more than ever, trust capital may become the new marketing gold standard, joining brand equity as a key metric for valuing a company’s relationship with its customers and prospects.

My father used to caution not to believe everything one heard or read. He was not a cynic but an optimistic realist. Nonetheless, like the majority of his generation, his basic intuition urged him to trust existing institutions and assume (that most dangerous word), that what they were saying or doing was for the common good. “Fake news” had not morphed from the lingua franca to become the lingua twitter.

That’s not always the case anymore. MediaPost shared the following on Mar. 19:

“The news business is battling public distrust. Nearly half of respondents to a new Axios/Ipsos poll said they do not trust traditional media ‘very much or at all” to accurately deliver information about the COVID-19 virus.’”

That distrust should inform how marketers must rethink their approach to customers and prospects as we plunge into a new and uncertain era.

On Jan. 19, the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer published this worrisome finding:

“… despite a strong global economy and near full employment, none of the four societal institutions that the study measures — government, business, NGOs and media — is trusted. The cause of this paradox can be found in people’s fears about the future and their role in it, which are a wake-up call for our institutions to embrace a new way of effectively building trust: balancing competence with ethical behavior.”

If “disbelief” is the new normal gut reaction to our foundation institutions, it goes without saying that our commercial messages, however well wrapped in engaging narratives are likely to need the “suspension of disbelief” to be effective. That almost certainly means stepping back a little (or a lot) from our “act now” knee-jerk impulses and asking ourselves what we need to do to achieve that “suspension,” to establish the critical trust that my father suggested might be missing.

Building Trust With Customers and Prospects

If we look at the Amazon ethos, building credibility item by item, on-time delivery by on-time delivery, rapid refund by rapid refund, trust impacts each transaction more than efficiency. Not surprisingly, that same Edelman study found “ethical drivers such as integrity, dependability, and purpose drive 76% of the trust capital of business, while competence accounts for only 24%.”

Trust capital may become the new marketing gold standard, joining brand equity as a key metric for valuing a company’s relationship with its customers and prospects.

But how can we measure integrity, dependability and purpose? It may be easier said than done. Perhaps a good starting point is looking backwards.

How much feedback have you had from your customers, especially negative feedback? (We all love compliments but we seldom learn from them.)

One of my first jobs was to read complaint letters, research what had (or had not) gone wrong, and then write for the signature of the CEO, a truly personal answer. The number of “thank you” notes we received was the best lesson you could have in the value of real personalization.

If you don’t have a strong culture of responding to every complaint, not with a form letter or email but with a thoughtful and helpful personal communication, you should put one in place, now. If I can’t talk to a knowledgeable and helpful human being instead of an algorithm, like many others, I’m gone and your trust capital has tanked, or at best, taken a hit.

A recent blog post from Yes Marketing put it this way:

“In a world driven by access to options, an emotional connection with a brand can be the tipping point for consumers when deciding where to spend their dollars.”

You certainly want it to tip your way, and that means doing whatever is necessary to establish and retain that emotional connection and trust.

Whatever we do to build trust capital during these uncertain times, even if not immediately measurable, is certain to pay big dividends when the crisis is past.

 

WWTT? So Many COVID-19 Emails … But Are There Any ‘Good’ Ones?

Right now, the world feels like a very scary, uncertain place, as we all make adjustments to our daily lives during this pandemic. But there is also a lot of room for hope and positivity. For today’s “What Were They Thinking?” post, I want to look at some COVID-19 emails I’ve received from brands and nonprofits to my personal email account, showcasing a couple that I think did an excellent job at standing out in my inbox and offering value.

Right now, the world feels like a very scary, uncertain place, as we all make adjustments to our daily lives during this pandemic. And while each day often seems weirder or scarier than the one before it, there is also a lot of room for hope and positivity. For today’s “What Were They Thinking?” post, I want to look at some COVID-19 emails I’ve received from brands and nonprofits to my personal email account, showcasing a couple that I think did an excellent job at standing out in my inbox and offering value.

Because if you’re not offering up value right now (and no, I don’t mean a sweet sale on a pair of shoes), then maybe think twice about what campaigns you’re running, especially if they include COVID-19 messaging.

Also, a little tip I’d like to offer: Consider removing inactives from your list BEFORE you message your entire list. I don’t need to know that you’re keeping your establishment clean and being decent to your employees if we interacted maybe once, back in 2014. If you can wash your hands, you also can take some time for list hygiene.

So much like an episode of MTV Cribs, step into my inbox with me, and let’s look at some examples of COVID-19 emails done right:

COVID-19 email message from Lush I received this email from Lush on March 14, and the headline reads: “Be safe, get clean.”

Already I’m thankful the subject line isn’t the usual canned “[Company name] and COVID-19 update.” Yes, in some cases we do need an update from a particular company we do business with — for example, when my hair salon emailed me how they were were taking care of their staff and the salon, how this would affect services, hours, etc, I definitely read that email. My salon is a very personal marketer to me … some others who email me, however, are not.

Back to Lush. So the subject line is great and has me curious enough to open. The main message is simple: “Wash your hands for free at Lush.” The rest of the short email says that their stores are still open in North America, come on in and wash your hands for free with no expectation of purchase.

Now yes, this can be looked at as a way to increase foot traffic, but they are offering a service that is very relevant right now (How many of us have replaced our usual goodbyes with “Wash your hands!”?) Sure, some people might make a purchase, but the focus of this email is about a beneficial service Lush wants to provide the community, wherever one of their brick and mortar stores reside.

Unfortunately, the next day I received a second email from Lush alerting me to North America store closures from March 16-29, but even that didn’t feel like a boilerplate email. You can check it out here.

The bottom line about Lush is that their emails were compassionate, offered value to their customs, and were on-brand.

Now, let’s look at a nonprofit I support:


The Western New York Land Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in the Western New York (WNY) region of the Empire State. It’s a second home to me, due to the fact I went to college there and I have friends and family in the area.

While the WNYLC’s subject line is a bit closer to some of the boilerplate ones I’ve seen out there on other COVID-19 emails, what works so well is the message. It starts with a note from their Executive Director, leading off with a cancellation of a specific hike for the safety of others, as well as information about how future events will either be conducted via phone or video, or rescheduled. All important info, especially if you’re a donor who actively participates with this organization.

But what I appreciate the most is how this email ties into part of the land conservancy’s mission — to experience the land. The call to action to go outside and take it in during these uncertain times is what a lot of people need to hear: to take a break, step away from the constant news cycle or ding of email, and go breathe some fresh air. The specific mention of the Stella Niagara Preserve (land the WNYLC has protected) is fitting, and the P.S. includes a reminder that social distancing is great for the outdoors, so send photos of your favorite moments.

This call for photo submissions isn’t only user generated content, but when the WNYLC posts these images, their follows can enjoy them and feel a little less distant. Something we all need.

As marketers, before all of “this,” our jobs were to educate prospects and customers about our services and products, and to often help people be their best selves, whether professionally, personally, or both. Our creative and analytical minds were put to work building campaigns and helping support sales teams. And yes, those are all still our jobs right now.

But I think we have some new ones. We need to be there to help lift up our customers and donors (when appropriate and relevant, don’t just barge in out of nowhere). We need to make sure we share good, accurate information, no matter what the topic is. And we need to be positive … because I think keeping a positive attitude through the darkness is the only way through this. And we’re gonna get through.

Marketers, what do you think? Tell me about some thoughtful, well-executed COVID-19 emails you’ve seen in your inboxes (and if you’ve seen some cruddy ones, tell me about it on Twitter, over at @sass_marketing). And take care of yourselves, each and every one of you (Gary, stop touching your face.).

Take a Break and Carry On: Adjust Your Mindset and Messaging During Coronavirus Pandemic

Timing is everything, perhaps now more than ever during this pandemic. As we watch the world around us change drastically, on a daily basis, it’s hard to know what to do. Do we ramp up advertising and customer messaging? Do we push out more offers? Do we create new discounts to keep sales coming in? If there was a crystal ball we trusted at times like these, what would it tell us to do?

Timing is everything, perhaps now more than ever during this pandemic. As we watch the world around us change drastically, on a daily basis, it’s hard to know what to do. Do we ramp up advertising and customer messaging? Do we push out more offers? Do we create new discounts to keep sales coming in? If there was a crystal ball we trusted at times like these, what would it tell us to do?

Nothing.

Yes. Do nothing different. Instead: “Carry on!”

No, I’m not in a state of denial, or naivete. Hear me out:

When everything around us seems to be in a state of chaos and uncertainty, we seek something solid to assure us that not all we know is pushing the “cancel” button, and that some parts of our lives will continue as normal.

When we see brands or businesses or organizations doing “business as usual,” or messaging positive news and actions, we find hope and relief and start to gravitate toward them. Whether they are right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. We need hope, assurance, and a little bit of our current normal, or we fall into states of despair and paralysis.

When we see the organizations or brands in our daily lives panic, we want to avoid their same dilemmas and tend to distance ourselves from them and find alternatives. Our trust in those organizations to be beacons for us during hard times and good times is forever changed.

Not only is our trust changed for those that panicked and gave up during those tough times, so too often is our loyalty.  We find alternatives and quite often those alternatives become our new normal. And when stability comes back to our lives, we stay with that new normal quite often vs. go back to those that panicked and let us down.

As long as you are able, stay the course in terms of keeping stores open and services available, while also abiding by what local and federal mandates require of you, of course. And most importantly, keep communication relevant and timely, while also avoiding overwhelming those you’re messaging. Remember, we’re all receiving a lot of information now, and it can be a lot to digest.

So, how do we “do nothing” effectively? Stay in touch.

Here are some thoughts on staying connected during uncertain times in ways that keep customers aligned with your brand, trusting your position, and ready to come back when life resumes as usual, once again.

Consider:

  • Keep communicating: If you send out weekly emails with product ideas, promotions, account statements, keep doing it. But instead of trying to sell to someone who is scared of life as they know it is over, peddle sincerity, compassion, and interesting stories.
  • Don’t make light of the situation: There is nothing funny from any angle so remain sensitive and stay real. Coors had plans to run an ad on being the best “work at home” beer, originally positioned for March Madness, but pulled it (ahead of the announcement of the tournament being canceled). While the ad was never intended to make fun of the current situation, it could have easily been taken the wrong way, if Coors had not pulled it.
  • This is not an opportunity: Don’t offer coronavirus specials, and don’t push to get in the news by giving away free toilet paper or make shift masks. Don’t use social media to increase impressions with insights about the situation unless you really have helpful information that makes a difference, and you are a credible source for the topic at hand.
  • Provide a healthy distraction: Stressful times are not prime for promoting sales, as efforts are not likely to achieve as much as they would during less uncertain times. It is, however, a great time to tell stories about your brand, your employees, your community causes, your vision. Take this time to be uplifting, again, where appropriate.

Regardless of what business you are in, take a break. Take a break from the routine of pushing sales and counting acquisitions. It’s not going to pay off and your frustration level will just elevate. Stay focused on what you can continue to have a positive effect on: relationships. Keep your brand relationships alive with positive communications, stories of hope and community, and more.

Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight Series, sheds a good light on this situation: “I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.”

Embrace the dark. Look for the stars. And “Shine on!

 

Coronavirus and Marketing Automation: Let’s Be Careful Out There

I’m no stranger to writing about crisis management. And while we’re in uncharted waters here with the COVID-19 Coronavirus, there are some things that marketers forget about doing in times of crisis, including the emails they have set up in their marketing automation tools.

I’m no stranger to writing about disaster preparedness and crisis management. I live in an area where we get hit with a hurricane every few years. And while we’re in uncharted waters here with the COVID-19 Coronavirus, there are some things that marketers forget about doing in times of crisis, including the emails they have set up in their marketing automation tools.

I will leave it up to the medical professionals to discuss what needs to be done to protect yourself from the virus, other than to say it’s a very fluid and dangerous situation, so please take is seriously.

That said, marketers and business owners, here are some things you need to consider regarding your current and ongoing email campaigns:

Let’s talk about your tone: I received the above email March 12, and it’s completely tone deaf. The subject line for the email I got from Spirit Airlines says it all: “Never A Better Time To Fly.” And while I certainly understand that Spirit still needs to fill seats on its planes, maybe it could have come up with a better subject line considering the times?

In my favorite gaffe email of the day, also from March 12 (and I’m not taking political sides here; in fact, I get emails from both parties), our president literally invited me to dinner.

Which brings me to my second point: Please take a look at your marketing automation campaigns. It may be time to cancel some, tweak some of the copy in others, add some new ones, etc. We tend to set-em-and-forget-em, but unless you want to put a negative ding on your brand image, have a look at what you’re sending out — especially in these unprecedented times.

I hope this helps. I wrote this quickly given the fluid situation surrounding COVID-19; there are many more things you can do as a marketer in times of crisis. Please be safe!

 

 

Guiding Clients Through COVID-19 Challenges

Times of drastically scaled back face-to-face client meetings are likely to pop up over the course of your career. Even if you’ve been lucky enough so to have no local COVID-19 concerns, you’ve got to start answering the question: In an age of fewer in-person meetings, how do you adjust your client service strategy?

The move toward more remote work has been advancing for years, but COVID-19 is forcing an acceleration at breakneck speeds. Scheduling a video meeting while folks work from on Fridays is one thing, but moving your big industry events to virtual-only is something no one was truly ready for. But we should consider this the new normal.

Times of drastically scaled back face-to-face client meetings are likely to pop up several more times over the course of your career. Even if you’ve been lucky enough so far to have no local COVID-19 concerns, you have got to start answering the question: In an age of fewer in-person meetings, how do you adjust your client service strategy and help your clients?

Don’t Panic! You’re Already Pretty Good At This

Less face-to-face time can feel like a huge blow to your client service strategy, but it doesn’t have to be. The number of remote workers and companies with remote work policies increases all the time. Chances are, you already know how to work successfully without routine in-person meetings. Just consider COVID-19 your glimpse into the future.

Inventory your client relationships and determine who’s going to need a new approach when lunch meetings aren’t happening. Whose business is likely to suffer most from periods of widespread quarantine, and how can you expand your scope of work to help them plan a response?

The guiding principles for you and your clients are the same as ever: creativity and communication.

Shake Up Your Client Service Strategy!

When it comes to marketing, you’re going to have to take a whole new approach to your client service strategy. Professional conferences in every sector are being cancelled, postponed, or rolled into online-only events. That means big news about data, clinical trials, product launches, trends, and more aren’t going to be communicated the way anyone planned.

Talk to your clients about what they’ll do if in-person events are off the table. Social media and paid media will have to take a much larger role in pushing out the major announcements usually reserved for the year’s biggest in-person events. Many companies have been dragging their feet on developing robust strategies for virtual events, which is where you come in. Whether it’s a live tweet event, Facebook Live, Instagram stories, or something else, get creative about turning the content you wanted to share “in real life” into great web content such as animation, recorded presentations, infographics, etc.

Embrace the Chance to Plan

Getting clients to commit time and resources to planning for contingencies is never easy, but with this new virus on everyone’s mind, seize the moment and have those big conversations. If your clients aren’t worried yet, push them to imagine what they would do if their field’s biggest meeting got canceled.

Ultimately, planning for something like this makes you and your clients more nimble. You can draw on the lessons learned and shelved plans to adapt to other issues that come up.

If you never have to draw on those plans, that’s great, and you’ll have pushed yourself and your clients to find new and compelling ways to share the information that’s most important to them.

Remote work is only becoming more popular, and there’s no telling when the next global health crisis will have us all stuck at home. Start planning now.