Dealing with Coronavirus Comms

As we type this article we are trying to be extremely conscious of our choice of language and to not make this political as things are changing so rapidly at the moment you can easily be caught out – and that is kind of the point.

We can see that people in marketing / communication departments in house and agency across the globe are trying to figure out how to speak to their customers right now. We have made it through the initial wave of recognition of impact – depending on your business that may vary but many of our clients have at least messaged via email to let their customers know the situation.

Thankfully, from our clients perspective, this has been done appropriately with active customers taking priority and not so much them digging through their email archive to update anyone they have ever taken an address from as the ever so accurate Tom Fishburne pokes fun at in his Sunday evening post from the 20th March 2020.

Got something to say? Say it straight.

Although we don’t want to make this post political, we do however want to highlight the use of one of the phrases that is being widely used: ‘Social Distancing’.

Quite frankly, it means nothing. No matter how many times politicians and newsreaders repeat it, it still means nothing. This fantastic graphic found on Reddit explains all you need to learn on this below.

Particularly in the UK we have seen people not taking this advice seriously or perhaps even the message not breaking through.

There is a lesson to be learned here for all marketing and comms teams, words matter – especially in a crisis. You must choose your language carefully and ensure you’re not choosing to sound clever over being heard.

Actions not words

Some brands and companies are doing the best by saying nothing – the likes of Lush and Apple reassuring their staff that they will be paid no matter what.

The likes of Vaxhall is helping 3D-print parts for ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, Brew Dog giving away its ‘Punk Sanitiser’ to local charities, rather than being sold in shops and Diageo pledging more than eight million bottles of hand sanitiser, by donating up to two million litres of alcohol to manufacturing partners, and G-tech is helping produce ventilators plus many more.

A big shoutout to the North East Chamber of Commerce £100,000 initiative to support members by offering a suspension of membership payments of 50% or even 100% over the next 3 months.

Whether its supporting the fight back or simply reassuring your staff or giving discounts and refunds to your customers, people will remember the way your company acts during this crisis.

Empathy, appropriate entertainment, COVID challenges & more.

Keep ups with loo rolls and the impending cabin fever – lots of people wanting to feel human connection – over the next few weeks no doubt Tik Tok, Instagram and Facebook will fill with challenges, some influencer led, some your mates just come up with. As a brand you should always tread really carefully with this one but no doubt there will be some fun stuff coming out of this awful situation.

We will see brands in sport and sports personalities look to get the population on their feet and do living room friendly workouts, for the body and particularly the mind. Mental health has been a large concern from people as lock downs become more prevalent across the world – this is the perfect time to use any ongoing mental health initiatives your company may already have in place to reach a now much more captive audience (literally) in a supportive way.

Leading with empathy at this early stage is the only way to truly converse with your audience. If you are trying to sell too hard right now it may well miss the mark with your audience.

Attract – Engage – Convert


Empathise – Entertain – Connect

We believe right now you must change your communications and marketing plan to look at how you can empathise with your customers situation and connect on a human level. Brands and organisations that do this effectively will have the ear of the customer.

Adidas have launched #HomeTeam – a perfect example of this whereby they are sharing personal and intimate thoughts from team members and the stars on their sponsorship roster calling for people to come together and showing support for their fellow man.

Swipe across and click play to hear the recordings.

This is awesome, but not everyone has the global audience and brand ambassadors of Adidas I hear you say. Well, this weekend in a very socially distanced way we took a ride up to Newcastle to our long time friend and client Flat Caps Coffee to film a part Gardeners World parody part product showcase short.

There was no hard sell with this – the goal was to create something relaxing to watch that featured some of the products available online at Flat Caps Coffee online shop – the shop that is now closed for a number of weeks. This has already led to an increase in online sales from Flat Caps and it took around an hour to create.

You have to remember you all have an audience, they are all keeping an eye on how you communicate through this crisis. They are all routing for you and don’t want to see you suffer. How can you communicate to them in a way that lets them know you’re here for them and can help them through this difficult time?

Get Ready for the bounce back

This is some of the most common advice we’re noticing from people (usually people in our industry, granted) but try not to be too cynical, a lot of us know what we’re talking about!

We’re seeing that online can more or less continue to operate. Round the corner from us at Colehouse is Salesfire who are tracking daily ecommerce spend on their awesome free tool.

This great visualisation and tracking tool is showing that customers are still buying – and with the UK lockdown just being announced we can expect more and more consumers turning to online.

What have you and your business done to ensure you can sell online? Do you have a marketing plan and the communications channels set up to be able to move fast on that?

The physical bounce back will happen, no matter how far away it seems right now.

This is a great time to plan and you must recognise that everyone is in the same boat right now. How will your strategy differ to your competitors? Use this time to get your website, content, your next campaigns and activity all in the best shape possible.

We know people are being laid off and furloughed, it’s a very uncertain time for a lot of brands and businesses – but if you are in the fortunate position of still being able to carry on as a business then we urge you to think about how you can use this time to benefit your company and the team.

For more information and advice about COVID-19 please refer to the WHO website.

Can we help you with your Coronavirus comms and planning?

We’re offering a limited free consultation to any company wanting to discuss how they are wanting to tackle the next few months.

Contact us if you want to discuss activating your social channels more effectively, your post lock down marketing plan, or getting your business online while physical stores are closed down.