The Marketers Guide To Surviving A National Crisis
Today I was supposed to be in Mexico. Needless to say, like many of you, my plans were abruptly changed. Instead of sipping fruity drinks poolside, I’m enjoying the comforts of my home and writing a little guide to share with all my fellow advertising and marketing pals. Hey, it could be worse. At least I get to be home and safe with a few furry co-workers by my side. No not my husband. He’s downstairs in his own workspace. I’ve got an orange tabby sidekick and a curious pup invading my office space enjoying the ride we are on called the COVID-19 crisis.
We are in week two of our requested quarantine and I’ve already learned a lot. It’s like an advertising bootcamp where you must act quick, adapt and work with your team. Unfortunately, there will be some places that will not make it out of this in one piece. But if you keep your head up and make smart changes together (I say together because now more than ever it takes a team) than you my friend will be fine.
I think the restaurant industry is a perfect example of this. I am so proud of our community. These businesses had to change their operations overnight. Talk about stressful. But, in order to adapt…they did not freeze. The ones that have are going to have a very hard time bouncing back from this. The ones that are busting their behinds can keep paying staff, and help customers feel comforted in their homes with their favorite local bites. Additionally, they are keeping their brand out there. Whether you carryout or buy a gift card now to use later, this is a great industry to support. I’ve also seen many brands figure out new ways to engage with customers virtually. I think we will see more and more of this in the future.
It’s so easy to be consumed by all the negativity that has been rolling around over the last week. Limit what you are consuming regarding news media. It’s important to be informed, but don’t be consumed by it. That is valuable time that you could be working hard to adjust and adapt your brand. This is going to end. It just feels heavy right now because it is all still new. Last week was the worst. There was so much information flying at us it was hard to stay positive. But we all have companies that rely on us to lead them in the right direction. Marketing and advertising have never been more important than right now. It’s time to be a leader and stay the course. The decisions you make right now are helping people keep their jobs. Don’t let your brand go quiet. Use your voice and be the light for your customers. When this is over, even if they are taking a slight pause on their consumer behaviors, things will be back to normal and you will be the first one they call because you will be top of mind.
It can be easy to blast out communications on every channel you have for your brand, but you really need to think about what is appropriate for each message. If you have a national brand, but want to communicate to a specific market, social may not be the best channel for that. Consider isolating emails you have for the market you want to speak to and communicate that way. Be sensitive on social to your customer’s needs. I’ve seen a lot of retail stores putting extra effort into social replies and messaging. They want customers to order online easily, so if they have questions they are right there to help. Social is great for that. Make sure when you talk to your customers or your staff to inspire, keep things as positive and helpful as possible and be open to feedback, whether positive or negative. Overall having a plan for your communications during a time like this is very important. It will guide you as you make decisions over the next few weeks.
This is a message from a local advertising agency that really cares about you. Now is not the time to keep the message the same. Unless of course it fits for your brand. We have clients that advertise their drive thru on a normal day, so for them it does make sense to keep the message the same. But for the rest of us, do not be scared to adjust your message. Think about what makes sense to your customer right now and what you would like to say to them. Last week I was so proud of our agency. We did calls with all our clients and worked countless hours to get new creative ready to go for many of them. For some it was a simple adjustment to the audio, others were more complex with new creative mixed in. Either way, we combed through everything we had airing and adjusted schedules and creative where needed. We had numerous clients getting pulled in all directions and some working from home. We wanted them to know we were there for them at every turn.
I may be biased, but I love my team! I’m grateful for each amazing person that I work with. We are talking often even while working virtually, and we are getting things done at a rapid pace. I know our clients appreciate the work we are doing for them. We’ve always instilled in our employees that if we do the right thing for our clients everything will fall into place. Now is not the time to rack up billable hours. We are doing a lot right now as a team for our clients because it’s simply the right thing to do. Think of ways within your company that you can be helpful for your customers. People need each other right now. If we can safely help each other in a time of need we are all going to be better because of it.
When the going gets tough, the tough stay advertising. I know that sounds harsh because this may not seem like the best time, but the past has taught us time and time again that brands who advertise during a recession win the race. Rates right now in some ad spaces are good. You can get more than usual for visibility at a lower cost. And Guess What??? Your competitors in some cases are pulling schedules or making unwise choices in customer communications. Don’t wait to go back on until everything goes back to normal. This is a chance for you to stand out for a reasonable cost, be top of mind to your customer and kick the competition out. Also, you are a smart marketer and have already changed your message after reading that suggestion earlier in this guide, so you are fully prepared to rock out something that hits home to your customers.
Make sure during this you have empathy for your customer concerns. They are valid. Everyone is feeling different emotions right now and we need to be attentive to that. The same goes for your team. Make sure to keep communication available for suggestions or concerns. Having an open conversation about how everyone is feeling will help keep ideas flowing. Also, have a little grace for yourself. Everyone is doing the best they can and figuring this out as we go. Use what you know and make smart choices, but if something doesn’t go quite as planned it’s ok. Dust yourself off and keep on moving.
Right now, I’m keeping in close communications with all of my media contacts across the county. That’s a lot of conversations going on, but what I’ve found in these conversations is a lot of good advice and a lot of great opportunities for our clients. If you do need to move a week or two on your schedules most people are flexible. If you are being a good partner to them, they will be a good partner to you. In most cases if you adjust vs cancel the stations may keep added value pieces intact. TV was up in numbers last week as well as streaming radio and social media usage. There are a lot of great opportunities out there right now. If you take a little time to find them it is a great way to advertise and still be mindful of budgets at this time. Most of our clients know we are doing this for them as they’ve been getting calls and emails from us over the last week to go over adjustments or where I was seeing opportunities we should adjust to.
People want to hear from the brands they care about. As a consumer we need the brands we interact with to show us that they are confident in decisions they are making currently for the safety of employees and customers. You don’t want to see a superhero crumble. Am I right? If that were to happen, we’d all be scared for what happens next. This isn’t the time to stay still. It’s a time to adjust, change the message, communicate, work together and move things forward. We are going to get through this together.
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