Advertising and PR During COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak has affected all aspects of our lives, including how the brands now choose to promote their products and services. Even if the business is not health-related, one is most likely incorporating the pandemic into the content and messaging. Yet the companies are also most likely trying to figure out exactly how to stay relevant while also appropriate during such an unprecedented time.

COVID-19 has not only shifted business trends, but also consumer priorities and the entire marketing landscape. The goal of this guide is to help in adapting the messages accordingly so that one can continue purposeful, quality communication with the audience and stand strong with the customers. Let’s start with the most important one.

Being sensitive

COVID-19 has impacted individuals on a personal level world-wide, so the risk of inadvertently coming off as insensitive or even exploitative is higher than ever right now. And with social media communication at a peak, one small mistake could mean far-reaching and long-term consequences.

Better too serious than sorry

While it’s normally common and effective for brands to keep a conversational tone, it’s best to steer clear of using humor or wit to accomplish that right now. Even being overly casual can be off-putting. The content may not be as colorful or aligned with the brand personality, but it’s far better to be more serious than sorry.

Check for insensitive words

There are several words and phrases that prior to COVID-19 were completely harmless but now the same words can cause disturbance. For example:

  • Killer (as in a “killer deal”)
  • Contagious (“how to create contagious content”)
  • Health or checkup-related terms (“give your budget a pulse check”)
  • Spread
  • Contagious
  • Infectious
  • Viral
  • Gather
  • Event

Take a neutral or supportive stance

If the business is still operating and relevant, one has to be careful with the positioning. For example, among the Federal government’s COVID-19 measures is a steep interest rate cut. For mortgage brokers, “Take advantage of the low interest rate now!” conveys an inappropriately exciting message. On the other hand, “Let us help you navigate the unstable economy” offers security and respects the gravity of the situation.

Similarly, marketing and advertising agencies reaching out to these businesses should take a position not of helping businesses to “capitalize” on the current times, but rather of helping them to make themselves as visible/accessible as possible right now to those who need them.

  • Use: “contribute,” “connect,” “play a role,” “navigate,” “cope,” “respond”
  • Do not use: “capitalize,” “advantage,” “offer,” “gain,” “profit”
  • Be careful with: “opportunity,” “make the most”

Ensuring accuracy

Now more than ever, taking the extra steps to stay accurate will help us to maintain the trust we have worked so hard to build with your audience. It will also help us to keep up with changing search trends and even filter out any unreliable COVID-19 resource. Here are some guidelines and resources to help you stay accurate.

Use credible COVID-19 sources

Effective copywriting provides information while simultaneously delivering a greater message. The intended message may be “I am here to help you,” but if the information is inaccurate, this is not the message that will come through. At best it will say “I’m careless,” and at worst, “I can’t be trusted.”

Inaccurate information about the coronavirus is everywhere, so make sure to get the facts straight when copywriting — especially for social media captions or ads that can get shared.

Stay optimistic, but don’t overpromise

It’s important to inspire hope and forward-thinking through the copywriting, but remember that this is an unprecedented situation; even expert predictions have questionable accuracy. All that we can promise your audience is that we willl stay committed to handling the situation and serving them the best way we can. Ensuring anything else, even if to keep up morale, could backfire.

Modifying your offers

Google has banned advertising on travel-related services, but there are still a lot of businesses that can, and should, advertise relevant services during COVID-19. Just make sure to modify the copywriting so that calls to action are appropriate. Also, keeping in mind that things are evolving fast, so keep the messaging as versatile as possible so that we don’t have to be constantly update thecopy. Here are some guidelines and suggestions for CTAs with respect to COVID-19.

Ease up on urgency

“Call now” or “Book now” buttons are fine; but excitement- or scarcity-driven copywriting, like “Don’t miss out!” or “Grab your spot before it’s too late!” is not going to resonate with consumers or businesses right now. Nothing is as urgent as COVID-19, and this type of tone is more likely to cause us to come off as unaware or ignorant.

Staying on track

If the brand is feeling overwhelmed with all of the changes, it needs to make to its own copy. Everyone is having to make adjustments right now and settling into new rhythms. Here are some tips to help you through.

  • Prioritize: Start with top-trafficked content and new content moving forward.
  • Track your changes: Create a spreadsheet of the changes to keep a track of what to change back when things start to settle out.
  • Don’t delete anything: Save the good ideas and well-performing campaigns for reinstatement in the future when they will be more effective. Things will return to normal someday. A new normal, but a normal nonetheless.

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