By: NATALIE TOPALIAN Design Apr 2, 2020 The Dos and Don’ts of Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis During these unprecedented times, many organizations are struggling to effectively continue marketing their brand amidst the COVID-19 crisis. As your Brand Marketing Ally, we found it necessary to give back by partnering with our long-time ally and CEO of Event Garde Aaron Wolowiec to offer relevant and timely insight on what your company can do during this uncertain time to stay afloat. Episode 1: The Dos and Don’ts of Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis With some collaboration between Team TIS and Event Garde, we started a new webinar series, Branding & Marketing Best Practices Amidst COVID-19. Through this free webinar series, Rob McCarty and Aaron Wolowiec will be exploring different topics every week to help you and your brand navigate these uncharted waters. During our first episode on Wednesday, April 1, Rob and Aaron discussed The Dos and Don’ts of Responding to the COVID-19 crisis, including: An overview on how brands are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Best practices on how to properly respond to the crisis How a company's response can ultimately affect their brand for better or for worse Catch the replay from the webinar below or read on to get the highlights of what we covered. The Impact of COVID-19 on Brands & Individuals The COVID-19 Crisis is different from the 2008 financial crisis in many ways. Why? Because the impact on businesses and individuals is not just financial—this is greatly hitting everyone at a psychological level, as well. Recreational businesses are doing well. Industries like alcohol, grocers, video games, streaming services and cannabis (where legal) are doing very well right now. Most other businesses are taking a hit. Especially the tourism and restaurant/hospitality industries. From there, it trickles down to other industries, like events, marketing and more. Focus on what you can control. There’s so much out of our control right now—and you may even be frustrated that you’re unsure of how exactly you’re feeling. As Harvard Business Review helpfully explains, many of us are going through the stages of grief. Recognizing and understanding this can help immensely with the coping process. The Don’ts of Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis Don’t go on with "business as usual." Have you checked down on your marketing automation and advertising efforts? If not, now is an important time to revisit your email marketing, pre-scheduled social posts, retargeting ads, and any automation that may come with your CRM tools and survey platforms. Are these automated messages still timely, relevant and sensitive to the current landscape? Don’t share inappropriate or irrelevant content. As Aaron put it, "What may be deemed an appropriate post, photo or article share on a regular April day is likely no longer appropriate amidst COVID-19." Keep this in mind before sharing content on your website, blog, emails or social pages: Photos. Are people shaking hands, congregating in large groups, hugging or in public spaces? Articles and blogs. Is the message in the article or blog still applicable to the current state of the world and your industry? Tone. While your brand voice should remain consistent, the tone you take in your content will likely change. It’s important to strike a balance of optimism while still being realistic and straight-forward. Word choice. Avoid phrases like, "...from the comfort of your home/desk." Not everyone’s work from home situation is necessarily comfortable. One of our participants Maggie also commented that phrases like "We’re here for you" are way overused right now. Don’t overwhelm your audience with messaging. Most folks are getting inundated with emails and social posts—especially from brands who rarely communicate in this manner, or brands they haven’t engaged with for months or years. By now, it’s too late to blast out your COVID-19 statement (until new statewide or nationwide updates arise). Instead, consider putting this messaging on a page on your website. Additionally, updating your info on business listings like Google, Yelp, Trip Advisor and social media will help your customers know the best way to get in touch with you for the time being. Don’t use scare tactics to build your business. This is not a time to use the pandemic to your benefit. Do not exploit your customers’ needs for your own gain. Don’t forget about your audience! Really use this time to think about what you say, do and share, and how that can affect your audience. Also, consider what their main priorities and needs are during this time. Your audience is also likely interested in how your company is treating your employees. Details like these are more important to most folks than your generic COVID-19 statement. Best Practices for Brands Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis Do adjust your tone in content. As we mentioned above, your brand should absolutely be adjusting the tone of its content. Offer silver linings when you can. Do be honest and transparent. You’re not expected to have all the answers right now, and that’s okay. Communicating with your audience about things like limited/adjusted hours or service offerings and changes to your policies or procedures (such as returns or cancellations) will help you maintain the trust and loyalty you’ve already established with your customer base. Saying you’re unsure is better than announcing changes to your business every other day. Do share content with intentionality. Before sharing any piece of content, no matter the platform, ask yourself this: "Do my people really need to know this?" If the answer is no, then don’t share. If the answer is yes, make sure to run down through the checklist of all your assets for appropriateness and relevancy, as stated in the previous section. Do give back to your customers and/or community safely. Use the skillsets of your organization and your individual employees to provide useful products, services or insight to your audience (kind of like how we’re doing with this webinar series!) Beyond donating time, money and resources to community organizations, even showing love and support for local businesses by sharing their posts and information with friends and family can go a long way. For folks local to West Michigan, visit Local First for more insight on how to safely continue supporting local from a distance. Sign up for Updates on Future Episodes! Until further notice, this webinar series will be held every Wednesday via Zoom at 1 pm. As mentioned, we will be covering various topics related to branding and marketing during COVID-19—all free to attend! Visit Event Garde’s website to stay up to date on future episodes, and subscribe to our email list for additional updates. Have a specific topic in mind you’d like us to cover, or a subject matter expert you’d like to see on the show? We’d love to hear your suggestions! Send your ideas to our copywriter Natalie Topalian, email@example.com.