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Marketing Communications Advice for an Unprecedented Global Pandemic

Written by:

Megan Tafelski

March 13, 2020
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The seriousness and global impact of COVID-19 is evolving by the hour and it’s a scary time for all. The struggle for many businesses right now is defining the right balance between showing appropriate sensitivity and empathy with the need for business continuity. In times of uncertainty, people want to know your business has the best interests of the community at the forefront and they will be looking for trusted brands’ actions to reflect the values they believe in.

So how does this impact your planned media buys and proactive organic content? Here are a few things to do, and not do, right now.


  • DON'T Rush to Cut – It's critical to avoid perceptions of being opportunistic at this time, but it's also key to note that early indications by Adweek show that TV, cord-cutting and digital viewership will likely spike, as people stay home and tune in. Highly impacted industries should consider pivoting campaigns, instead of cutting them all together, to directly address the outbreak and show community support. 
  • DO Continue Google Search – No matter the circumstances, you want those actively seeking or searching for your brand, to find it easily.
  • DO Check Your Targeting – Certain targeting options could pose a problem if your ads are placed on pages with strong, negative sentiment as people look for guidance on what to do and not to do, and where to go and not go. This could present challenges for those in highly impacted industries such as airlines, tourism, education, child care and senior care. Most digital campaigns can be adjusted quickly and easily, so work with your agency to make any necessary and appropriate updates.
  • DON’T Be Insensitive – If your ads are driving traffic to a destination or encouraging consumers to go out and buy a product or service, be thoughtful about the message, and where, when and how your ad is running. For example, after watching a national morning show segment on the latest travel bans yesterday, a commercial aired with the slogan “Go There, Do That, Get Rewarded.” Although unintentional, consumers will see a brand encouraging travel, especially in a jokester way, as highly insensitive right now.


  • DO Check Everything…Twice – All scheduled content for auto distribution should be reevaluated. With high sensitivities, content that otherwise would be fine may hit the wrong chord. Continue communicating with your audiences but consider re-shaping some of the content to be informational. Share steps you’re taking during this difficult time or tips on keeping healthy. General brand awareness posts or ads that are not tied to specific calls to action (go here, buy that) are great options as well.
  • DO Put Your People First –Make sure your employees and customer service teams are communicated with regularly, including updates from leadership. Employees need to feel you’ve got their best interests at heart. When empowered with the right messaging, backed by a fierce loyalty, your team can be your best brand advocate.
  • DO Be Real – Communicate risks and be clear about the challenges the business is facing with employees, stakeholders and consumers alike. This will make any difficult but necessary decisions that may be needed down the road, more understandable. Any important announcements should be published in a simple and easily shareable format.
  • DO Pay Attention – Fear and heightened anxiety can sometimes be misplaced, and you may find an increase in negative comments and questions as a result – especially if your organization is heavily affected by the outbreak. Be sure to have someone closely monitoring your social pages and setting up real-time alerts for brand mentions. Consider having templated responses ready to go, so there’s no delay in communication.

We’re all in this together. Please reach out if you need assistance with your marketing communications during this challenging time.


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