When COVID-19 became a pandemic, the way we communicate changed overnight. We had to alter the majority of our interactions with other people, which as a result increased our online methods of communication. Because of this, we had to be willing to adapt to this new normal, which meant being more intentional with our tone and language choices. Communication in the midst of a crisis, where emotions are running high, requires a great deal of effort to ensure that misunderstandings are minimized. Our tone and verbiage had to be reimagined during this crisis.
Language as a Brand Experience
Our brand goes beyond our logo. Our brand is reflected not only in what we say, but in how we say it – our messaging, tone, and writing style. Language is an integral part of your overall brand experience. When we apply our tone of voice consistently, we establish a sense of trust and solidarity with our audience. It is hard to have a good conversation if you do not know who you are talking to. Is your audience the same as before the pandemic? The answer may be different in each market. For example, categories like home fitness have gained huge new audiences because more people are working from home and a lot of fitness gyms are currently closed or available at a limited capacity. Our industry is helping businesses take the necessary steps to ensure they are better prepared to combat the next crisis to come, whatever form it takes. The ultimate goal is helping businesses persevere and emerge from this crisis. In order to achieve that, we have had to refine our messaging.
A Change in Tone
During these unprecedented times, COVID has presented us with an opportunity to contact our clients and prospects a lot more via email communication. It has become one of the most important channels of communication. Tone-deaf email marketing has become inexcusable. At this time, it is important that businesses ask their clients and prospects “what can we do to help?” Anything else would sound like you are selling, and if there is one thing people do not want to hear during this time, it is a tone-deaf sales pitch. The good news is that your brand is now in a powerful position to help. But if your business puts profit before people, then you have lost the trust of your customer. Marketing should be about addressing a need. So if you are thinking about communicating with your audience, be honest with yourself about why. Why do you want to send that email? Is it because you have something to offer? During COVID-19, email greetings have changed. Rather than something generic, emails are now starting or ending with “hope you are safe,” for example. It is nice to know the other person is expressing concern, especially during a time like this. Good manners are important in your email greeting. Email is something that cannot convey emotion at all, so be careful. For example, instead of saying “we are here for you,” try using “here is how we can help.” Up-to-date market research is vital to help you navigate your messaging going forward because the attitudes in your markets may well affect the imagery you choose to use.
Rethink your Strategy
A survey of more than 35,000 consumers globally by Kantar found that 8% of consumers in 30 countries thought that stopping advertising should be a priority for brands. But 77% of respondents said they wanted advertising to “talk about how the brand is helpful in the new everyday life,” and 75% said it should “inform about the brand’s effort to face the situation.” This suggests that while customers do not expect brands to abandon advertising, brands should rethink their strategies. Campaigns have had to shift to include information about how brands are responding to COVID-19. Think about your target audience and how their lifestyle has changed. Your ads should support your audience. Include the ways you are helping customers stay safe. The time for big creative campaigns and attention-grabbing headlines may be on hold, but you can still demonstrate your value in other ways. Now is the time to dial back on the sales talk and instead demonstrate what you can really do to make your customers’ lives better. An emotional connection works when it comes to marketing during a pandemic. It is probably the key factor for brands and campaigns that are getting it right. Right now, all of our communication and advertising is taking place against the COVID-19 backdrop, so be more careful when constructing your messaging, whether on campaigns or customer communication.
The less attention-grabbing and more empathetic your language is, the more engaged your audience will be. People want to be reassured that things will go back to normal, so we as marketers should consider language that offers comfort. The challenge is how to connect the dots between this new caring and careful tone and your own brand voice without losing the essence of what your firm is about. How can you achieve that? Look at your data, and listen to your customers. It is important to acknowledge that your customers are in an entirely different place today than they were a few months ago, and they will be in a different place in 3 months, 6 months or even a year from now.
I will leave you with this Maya Angelou quote that really resonates with me during these unprecedented times:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
About Irma Zaldivar
I have 16 years of experience in all aspects of marketing and business development and have been in the accounting marketing industry since June 2015. I worked at a very small accounting firm prior to joining BDO. I am passionate about marketing strategy. To know that I can play a role in a business' overall game plan for reaching potential buyers and turning them into customers is a very gratifying feeling. Currently, as a digital marketing manager, I am responsible for leading all new campaign requests from start to finish. For the past two years I've been the co-chair of the Association of Accounting Marketing (AAM) monthly newsletter, the AAM Minute. I've been involved with AAM since I started my career in accounting marketing five years ago and it's provided me a lot of great ideas to bring back to my team.