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  • Writer's pictureSal Forgione

Communication During Coronavirus – Fighting COVID-19 with Sympathy, Empathy, and Compassion

There is one thing that has been certain since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, and that is that we as human beings are feeling more alone, and somehow more together, than ever before amid the global lockdowns, shelter-in-place directives, and travel bans.

Social distancing in response to the COVID19 global pandemic has been the focal point of combatting this invisible enemy, which has unfortunately left families, friends, co-workers, and the most vulnerable, alone. Even with all the safety protocols, constant waves of personal protective equipment (PPE), and self-isolation measures in place, our world’s elderly population are at the highest risk for serious illness, and even death. Despite all of this chaos, companies, and their constituents, continue to sell and doing all they can to remain relevant with advertising campaigns tailor-made for COVID19.

The outbreak, which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands, and the financial livelihoods of millions, has businesses that provide products and services, and their clients, in a perpetual state of fearing the unknown and scrambling to respond to their customers, and shareholders. As businesses and organizations struggle to stay profitable and continue every effort to tactfully keep their personnel employed, these societal challenges are quiet often most difficult for advertising agencies, marketers, and communications strategists everywhere.

This challenging time does offers unique opportunities for brands both large and small to focus their efforts on three primary focuses to support feelings of comfort and security: who they are, how they are helping fight COVID19, and their response to understanding this extraordinary situation.

But there is one simple problem with all of this. Well, to be frank, it seems like EVERYONE has the same message and the corporate dialogue which is blurring together with one corporate sentiment after the other. Obviously as sales and spending slow due to this deadly disease, COVID-19 has proved that retooling advertising and marketing efforts is critical, but in trying to be different, the messages become droning similarities.

So how do you stand out during all of this? How do you address your customers sensitively, and sensibly? There are three critical elements I want to share as a way of communication effectively placing this novel coronavirus crisis in a larger context in the product advertising realm.

Three Successful Communication Strategies During COVID-19:

1. Understand that your customers’ needs have dramatically changed. Maybe they don’t want to make that next big purchase just yet, but letting your customers know that your organization is available in any capacity both now and when they are ready to make a purchase may be a better long-term brand-building play rather than incentive marketing for immediate sales and poor long-term brand recognition.

2. Tailor your message to include the following some sympathy, empathy, and compassion. You are in business to serve your customers, and many of your customers may be purchasing your products and services mostly out of necessity right now, not out of desirability and pure wants. Now, utilizing some empathy, or the ability to gauge and understand the feelings of another individual, can be your secret weapon. If you try walking a mile in your customers shoes and get a better feel of prospecting your customers you may find there is a better strategy that focuses on compassion, value-focused marketing and understanding, not just price.

3. Do not focus on superfluous ‘features and benefits’ marketing and advertising right now, but rather the intrinsic benefits and added value you offer customers. Acknowledging that this is a global pandemic and responding accordingly with communications efforts that let your customer know you are on this journey together is a much stronger approach than the next big sales strategy campaign to generate revenues. Things seem to be on hold now, but they will not be forever, so playing the long-view approach to gain more of a following to strength your brand’s future is a sure bet.

As discussed, putting together a campaign marketing strategy during all this sickness, death, and fearful uncertainty can be considered a tall order at the least. With global financial strains and the prospect of a “leveling of the curve”, one thing is certain, and that is that life will go on one way or another. How long will it go on remains a question, and no one is sure when the next time someone will reach out for a handshake or when we can take our masks off to reveal our smiles. Life has been altered and communicating that to customers is critical. When the dust does settle though, make sure your company took a stance for your employees and customers through compassion and empathy. These efforts will bear much more fruit than another 0% interest rate advertisement or a tacky, fleeting COVID19 flash sale.


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