How to execute a responsible marketing strategy

May 14, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced almost everyone to reevaluate their business strategies, how they work and their marketing and awareness efforts. In these uncertain times it is imperative that companies speak with their audiences with empathy and truly mindful marketing. 

To begin putting empathetic marketing into action, we have to first recognize that everyone is in a heightened state of stress and sensitivity. The reality is that everyone is worried about something related to the virus - most likely on both a personal and professional level. 

Another thing to keep in mind is customers are most likely to remember brands that get their messaging very wrong or very right during this period. After all, brands that are empathetic and deliver humanized experiences are twice as likely to outperform their competitors.

Support and educate: The keys to marketing strategy

During a crisis, the number one goal for your marketing strategy should be to educate and help support your customers. 

Of course you want to make sure that you are not publishing anything offensive, which I discuss further below. But an equal priority should be to offer as much support to your customers as possible and this looks different for every company. Following are a few examples. 

Our client Basecamp has run a remote company for more than 20 years. They literally wrote the book on the topic, REMOTE: Office Not Required. The company’s resource page on remote working is full of recorded live streams, educational guides, how-to videos and even some lighter fare like home office setups. 


Another example comes straight from my household. My significant other is the digital marketing manager at Knotty Tie, a Denver-based custom tie company. The organization quickly switched from manufacturing ties to face masks, both for the community and rural Colorado hospitals. All marketing efforts shifted to educating Knotty Tie’s customers on face masks through content including blogs, email pushes and social media efforts. 

Knotty Tie

Take some time to think about what kind of information your customer needs and how best to share that with them. This can be in the form of newly created content or even resharing content that has been helpful in the past. 

Striking the right balance

All smart marketers are worried about setting the right tone and balance for their customers and the industries they serve. There are variables that are specific to each company with respect to tone and approach, but if you lead with positive intent, then you’re already on the right path. 

Acknowledge your audience’s perspective

Most likely your audience does not share all of the same values, experiences, viewpoints and perspectives. Although COVID-19 is a common enemy, everyone’s experience is personal to them. Social distancing and regulations vary throughout states and countries, so if you're sharing messaging based on locations, you need to reflect the realities of that specific area. Acknowledging the new normal of your audience is a good way to talk with them and not at them.  

Be mindful of your audience’s emotions and “get it”

Mindful marketing is extremely important to make it through this pandemic while keeping your audience engaged. Do you have a campaign scheduled around an area that no longer seems relevant or helpful to your customers? Does it need to go live now or can it be rescheduled?

It’s still OK to celebrate milestones or send an encouraging message, as long as you're paying attention to how customers are feeling and mirroring that emotion. More than ever, your audience wants to know you understand and that means showing your humanity. We’ve seen this in our daily Zoom meetings and with clients who are actively sharing their advice and learnings as a result of COVID-19. 

What’s the return to normal for marketing? 

It’s obvious COVID-19 has changed the way we approach marketing and communications immediately and it will have a lasting impact. As we start to plan for the coming months, we need to stay aware and evaluate in real time how we market and sell to people.

So think about how the pandemic may affect specific content. Before you hit “send” or “publish,” ask yourself: Is this copy still relevant? Helpful? Accessible? Cliched? Offensive? It’s only natural to hesitate, but when you find yourself frozen, take a breath, walk away and come back and take a fresh look at your messaging

Overall, you want to make sure your content is bringing value to your audience and in ways that recognize the sensitivity of the pandemic but also ensure you aren’t contributing to pandemic fatigue.

Getting the tone right is critical. Phrases that were fine just a couple of months ago may not be now: “a viral campaign that quickly spread across the globe” being one obvious example. But there’s a lot that can trip you up, and in general, tone today requires a lot more nuance. 

In these times, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. So overall, when in doubt, leave it out. 

Interested in talking more about your communications and marketing strategy? Contact us. 

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