Why marketing in today’s climate requires empathy and deep content analysis


PHOTO: New Orleans Infrogmation


Marketing experts are not calling on brands to stop marketing in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Then again, if you misrepresent the effectiveness of the products against COVID-19, state regulators could order you to stop marketing.

Marketing, of course, does not go as usual. Consumers today have a “deep desire for comfort and safety” and want to “create a protected and sheltered environment,” according to a Gartner report last month, “Consumer Sentiment About COVID-19: This that they expect from companies ”. Worried consumers are showing increasing mistrust, Gartner researchers say. “As marketers work tirelessly to guide prospects through the buyer’s journey, creating and curating content will be critical to a successful content marketing program,” said Randy Frisch , president and marketing director. at Uberflip. “In these uncertain times, content must serve a purpose that adds value to problems and aims to educate – instead of selling.”

Marketers need an empathetic playbook and shouldn’t let deaf marketing content and communications slip away, whether it’s pre-planned content from weeks ago or content recent.

Stand firm, push back, question authority

Business has slowed across all sectors, which means management is under pressure to meet targets for this quarter or this year, according to Dennis Shiao, a marketing consultant. A common thought at the moment, according to Shiao: “Hey! Our product is perfectly suited to the new world of remote work. Let’s take this opportunity. What happens next? The content marketing team receives a request from management to launch a “coronavirus campaign”.

At this point, marketers should take a step back and think about the company’s vision, mission and branding principles, Shiao said. “Think about your own values,” he said. “Do you really want to capitalize on the pandemic? Could business results be achieved more indirectly, for example by giving back to the community? Have an open conversation with management about it. You could get them to reconsider the request.

Related article: How Marketing Directors Are Leading the COVID-19 Crisis

Carefully review all ongoing or pre-planned communications

Kate Muhl, vice president analyst at Gartner for Marketers, said we still see examples circulating on social media of clearly constructed posts long before this crisis hit and are only being rolled out now.

screenshot of a Megabus ad on Facebook

As late as March 23, we saw Megabus’ leap year-themed promotions on Facebook. Promotional text like “Dive into a year of extra travel” and “Get a head start on spring travel!” Was perhaps not deaf when it was written. But, judging by the number of angry Facebook clicks on that ad, it’s definitely now, Muhl said. “Don’t let yesterday’s content planning sink into today’s imperative to respectfully and empathize with your target consumers,” she said.

Focus on the clarity and practical relevance of messaging

Consumers today look primarily to brands to provide clear information relevant to their tactical relationship with these brands. In Gartner’s recent consumer survey, top-rated brand actions consumers expect during the coronavirus outbreak include sending notifications about potential coronavirus exposures; changes in operations (store hours, etc.) that have an impact on customers; and up-to-date information on shortages, delivery or service times. “Don’t stay silent,” Muhl said, “but consider prioritizing content regarding discounts and promotions or stand-alone messages that are more general – less directly related to your brands, products and services – expressions of support or inspiration. “

Consumers want to see brands taking this moment seriously, but they’ll still need to hear brands with a voice and with a tone and perspective they’re familiar with, Muhl added. “This is the best way,” she said, “to keep brands authentic in this crisis.”

Think carefully about the cadence and the communication channel

According to Muhl, consumers were feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by the amount of content they were exposed to every day before this crisis hit. “The coronavirus has only amplified these feelings,” she said. “Don’t be part of the noise. Pressure test your content plans. Count on fewer high-impact messages now. And ask yourself: is what you plan to convey to consumers via email information or messages that consumers would be just as well served to find on your website or social channels? “

Related article: Marketing in times of crisis

Coping with Changing Circumstances

Deane Barker, senior director of content management strategy at Episerver, strikes a balance between content marketing and communications in this crisis. “The key,” he said, “is to specifically tackle people’s changing circumstances. We are all increasingly working from home, internet use is on the rise, and we have been plunged into a world where most humans can no longer be in physical contact. How does your product or service help in this brave new world? This is the key message that you should try to get across.

Leading with empathy never fails

Marketers need to be especially careful when actually working on the coronavirus directly in their campaigns and content. Posts related to the coronavirus can be off-putting to some, especially in the fast-paced news cycle where fears are rising sharply. “Just posting tomorrow’s post, no matter how ‘innocent’ the topic is, may be inappropriate given more important things that happened overnight,” Shiao said.

Tom Kaneshige, director of content for the CMO Council, said he found the following marketing communication off-putting: “As we, as a company, go through these difficult times to fight the COVID-19 epidemic, the staff of [omitted] take the necessary steps to continue to provide benchmark products and services.

“The lessons here are: don’t try to sell something, don’t do it for yourself,” Kaneshige said. “You really can’t go wrong if you lead with empathy. “

CMO Council research shows there is a lack of data information to help marketers, according to Kaneshige. “This is true for creating content that is not deaf,” he said. “Marketers will need to rely on their experience and their intuition about customers. They should also share pre-published content internally with the team, which hopefully is made up of diverse members. We are in uncharted waters and need many different perspectives. “

Related article: Empathy and Communication in the Time of Coronavirus: What Organizations Can Learn

Know your audience

Bottom line for marketing today? Just like before the coronavirus, it’s about deep connections with your customers.

Stephanie Moritz, Director of Marketing and Communications for the American Dental Association, was tactful when considering her association’s communications. “We really looked at how we could better serve the dental profession,” Moritz said. “What could we do to provide our members with the most value right now? What is the most essential? We have suspended all other communications so that we can focus and leverage the power of the entire association to provide information, resources and advice to dentists now, during and after COVID. “

Providing members with the latest and most accurate information such as clinical advice, business resources and legislative updates that they can actually use during this unprecedented time is essential to their mission, Moritz added. “We are fortunate to have such strong leadership standing up for all dentists, members, dental teams, staff and the public during this time,” she said.

Think long term (like in 2021)

Shiao said he understands that teams need to keep working towards their immediate goals. But don’t ignore some long-term visions, either.

It’s tough to navigate the “short game” right now, so if your business can handle it, post less and think about the next “big thing,” Shiao suggested. “A strange, otherworldly project that could kick off in Q4 – or hell, 2021,” he added.


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Jenny T. Curlee

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