Marketing Messages in the Time of COVID-19

A fascinating thing is happening in my inbox.

I’ve been deluged by emails from brands offering their take on the pandemic and what their company is doing about it. Some of this is quite useful … I’m happy to know my health insurance company will allow me to refill prescriptions early. And yes, it’s great to know the local grocery store is letting seniors shop in relative peace early in the mornings.

Yet it’s also pointing out just how many organizations have my email, and how irrelevant much of this truly is. I’m getting emails from places I’ve barely heard of assuring me that, as a valued customer, my safety is their first concern. And that the kayak I’ve had my eye on would look great with these water shoes.

The upside? It’s giving me a perfect opportunity to unsubscribe.

So what should your brand do in terms of communication, to avoid jumping on the COVID-19 messaging train just to be there? Ad agency Ogilvy has some suggestions, in their thoughtful report “COVID-19: How to communicate in turbulent times.”

Their first mandate is critical: “… it’s crucial that communicators make sure they are dealing with accurate information. Times of crisis can be confusing and frightening, resulting in an amplification of speculation, conspiracy theories, obfuscation and censorship. Communicators must ensure that they are dealing with facts and not fiction, real information and not rumor.”

Secondly, understand the “why” behind your message.

“This is not a time to try to market or sell, but rather it is a time to reinforce the values that define leading organizations. What can be done given the various objectives we are working to address? It all comes to down communicating effectively,” the report notes.

Finally, place the current crisis into a greater context.

“What does it mean for globalization, economic growth and more—and how does that play out as the world works to get through the crisis together?” the report asks.

The entire report is well worth the read, and will help your organization work through questions like:

  • Who needs to know this information?
  • How does my message need to be refined?
  • Are we focusing on our organization’s values?
  • How are the messages resonating?

This is truly useful information from Ogilvy, and I urge you to download and read the free report. Maybe then our mailboxes will fill up with well crafted, useful messaging that is open, read and acted upon.