As we catch our breath from the past few weeks of dealing with the coronavirus quarantine, one thing has become apparent – companies are anxious to keep in touch with their audiences. They’re just not sure what to say to them.
With our daily routines as we know them on pause for now, brands are searching for ways to stay in contact with their employees, customers and other stakeholders.
And, some are in doubt about the best way to do this. Should we post on social media? Should we email? Should it be business as usual?
The answers to that question are differ from brand to brand. In this time of uncertainty, no one formula works for everyone.
The worst thing companies can do right now is to stop communicating. If anything, now is a time when you should over-communicate.
5 Reasons You Want to Over-Communicate With Your Audiences
There are numerous reasons why you may want to keep in touch:
1) Providing reassurance: Having you there is reassuring to your audiences. It’s a reminder that although a lot of things have changed, you’re still there. It brings about a sense of normalcy in a time when many things aren’t normal. If you disappear, that may be the worst thing you can do.
There are exceptions. I’m sure we’ve all seen the “We’re here for you” email messages coming from companies we don’t even remember buying something from. That ISN’T necessary. But when brands you trust and do business with regularly go dark during a time of crisis, you may begin to wonder – are they still operating? What should I, as a customer, expect? Don’t keep them guessing.
2) More people are online: More people are staying home, which means they’re online more often. Total U.S. internet traffic is up 18 percent since the beginning of 2020.
They also have more time on their hands. Many may be researching products and services they’re thinking of purchasing. Since a majority of buyers conduct research online before ever contacting a vendor, you want to be ready with content that helps them learn about you and what you offer[i].
Not only are they researching, but many are also buying online. Overall online sales have jumped 25% amidst the COVID-19 crisis, while online grocery shopping has seen an over 100% boost in daily sales, says USA Today.
Social media usage is also up. One survey says 45% of consumers are devoting more time to social media during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because they’re working from home, more people are spending more time online and on social media – so you want to be there.
3) You have a captive audience: Because so many are at home, there are only so many ways you can reach them right now. There is no in-person contact – probably until June or July, if you follow the news.
Once the quarantine is lifted, everyone will be focused on getting back into their regular routines, so it may be a good time to get in front of your audiences while they have additional time on their hands. That email newsletter people didn’t have time to read before? They may have time now.
4) We need distractions: Everywhere you look, there are coronavirus stories. But, immersing yourself in coronavirus news 24/7 isn’t healthy. It can also cause people to tune out. So, we need distractions.
Many are searching for other things to read or watch. If you’re publishing content, you can be a part of that. “If that’s all the content we’re getting, we’ll either endlessly panic or become desensitized – both very bad,” says Jennifer Johnson, JenTimeCity Consulting.
5) When this ends, you want to be there: This WILL be over – and when it is, you’ll want to be top of mind when things start to recover and the economy rebounds. We can’t lose sight of that.
“This will be a critical time for brands,” said Dawn Mentzer, freelance copywriter and content writer. “If they let their online visibility decline, they will be scrambling all the more to recover and survive.”
So, What Should You Say?
We’ve established why you need to continue talking to your audiences, but what should you share? Nothing too salesy. If you usually share helpful, informative posts and curate others’ content, continue to do that.
Engagement is good. Instead of talking AT your audiences, engage with them. Check in with them. We know this is an unsettling time. People are on an emotional rollercoaster. While we know we shouldn’t panic, that’s easier said than done.
With lives and livelihoods at stake, we need to keep in mind that many are worried, even scared, right now. Show that you care by asking how they’re doing and if you can help. Be a sounding board for them. You don’t need to bring up business; you can simply show concern from a genuine place.
The other thing is – a lot of this is common sense – tactics that didn’t work before don’t work now. For example, sending a tone-deaf sales-oriented message was a turn-off before – and it is now.
“I’m not sure why so many are finding this hard to figure out,” says David Allison, founder of Valuegraphics. “It’s not a zero-sum game. Carry on being social. But hey, if you were just screaming ‘buy my thing’ at us until now, then it’s a great idea to shut down completely and, you know what? Don’t bother coming back.”
Let’s Not Fall Back Into Our Old (Bad) Habits
While we’re here at this moment in time, let’s try to learn some lessons. Some good may come from this. It’s given us time to really think about our marketing. It’s forcing us to slow down and take a good, hard look at what we’ve been doing – was that working? Maybe we need to make some changes. Let’s not go back to our old ways until we’ve taken the time to think through how we were approaching things.
It’s OK to Carry On With Marketing
And please, although points of view may vary, DO NOT feel guilty for marketing during this time.
“If your content and marketing are helping people, even just a few of them, even in small ways, you have nothing to feel ashamed about. … The best marketing helps people first, and earns their business as a result,” [ii] said Rand Fishkin, co-founder and CEO of SparkToro.
Let’s Move Forward – With Care
We’re all still finding our way. Expect things to change as we go. No one has all the answers. Proceed with patience and understanding. As always, build trust, and your relationships will grow stronger.
Need help with your messaging and outreach? Look to a communications consultant to assist you.
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About the author: You’ll find Michelle Messenger Garrett at the intersection of PR, content marketing and social media. As a public relations consultant, content creator, blogger, speaker and freelance writer, Michelle’s articles and advice have been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, Muck Rack, Ragan’s PR Daily, Meltwater, ThomasNet, FairyGodBoss, Freelancers Union and more.