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The Secret to Winning COVID-era Corporate Communications

August 10, 2020

By Lynne Golodner

The art of clear and compelling corporate communications may be the best-kept secret in the marketing toolbox – because it’s the first step in building mutually beneficial relationships that build your business.

At a time like this, when companies are fraught with the complications of COVID-19, and the way it has and continues to threaten the economy and the future of so many industries, communications becomes an even trickier dance as corporate leaders try to figure out what to say, how to say it, and whom to say it to.

Now more than ever, it’s imperative that your corporate communications become infused with a sense of humanity and realness. It’s time to peek behind the curtain and share a bit of the inner workings, to become more relatable, more conscious and more empathetic. After all, people do business with people and people are feeling a whole lot of emotions and fears right now.

If your business doesn’t address this in its corporate communications strategy, you’re missing a great opportunity to relate and become a relatable brand.

Now is the time to take a look at whether your communications focus is on YOU as a company and what you do, or on your audience.

Are you speaking TO your ideal customer?

Do you know what they fear and what they need?

Can you provide reassurance? Comfort? Solutions?

Even if your service or product does not speak to these emotional concerns, it may be time to suspend me-focused comms in favor of outward-focused messages.

Think about big brands like Nike, creating moving, heartstrings stories about what we’re feeling now. That’s what you want to do. Strike at the heart, relate to the people, acknowledge the emotions. Subtle selling is always more impactful than in-your-face tactics, anyway, so now is the time to give it a good try.

So, how to do this? Here are some practical tips for COVID Comms that sing.

  • Don’t avoid the issue. We are living in uncertain, and scary, times. Address the issue head-on. Speak to the elephant in the room. And then provide reassurance and comfort. Let your brand be a voice of encouragement.
  • Don’t market in a vacuum. Corporate communications at this time cannot be business-as-usual! You must evolve with the times. Change your strategy and your messaging to meet where people are right now.
  • Build relationships & build community. Shouting out to those providing help, care and support during this time shows goodwill and connection with other people and businesses. Make great community stories part of your corporate story.
  • Don’t make light of the seriousness of the situation. And also don’t dwell on the darkness. It’s a fine line between making light of a scary time and staying mired in its uncertainty. Only try humor when you’re sure it will be received well.
  • Be a voice of optimism and possibility. Speak to the light at the end of the tunnel – even if you don’t know how long the tunnel is.
  • Don’t pretend to be your customers’ friend or therapist. You are still a business and pretending you’re not will only build resentment. Nearly every industry has examples of companies that conveyed messages of “we’re here for you during this time” – and many of these mishap messages have been turned into memes and mocking tweets. You don’t want that to happen to you! Consumers won’t turn to their bank or their barber for reassurance during a pandemic; keep your messages inspiring and aligned with what you do.

If all of this seems overwhelming, it’s because it’s not easy to communicate during a pandemic! Take a deep breath, and start small. The best marketing messaging comes from simplifying and going back to basics.

Think about what you do well and where your niche is. Focus on showing true care and concern for your customer. Aim to be human and relatable. Don’t let your own pandemic panic or economic uncertainty inform your communications.

Take one message at a time to be real, relatable and honest about where you are right now. The rest will take care of itself!

Lynne Golodner is a marketing and public relations entrepreneur who leads Your People LLC. She is also the host of the Make Meaning Podcast.

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