Striking the Right Tone: How Marketers Should Communicate in the Age of Coronavirus

It's not just what you say—it's how you say it.

By: Jennifer Mbala-Nkanga

As the old adage goes, timing is everything. As strategy partners to our clients, it’s our job to identify good timing and to make the most of the opportunities it presents. This includes knowing how to strike the right tone when the going gets tough and things go viral (literally).

From terror attacks to recessions to natural disasters, marketers and their agencies have faced plenty of challenges before—but the worldwide COVID impact is, well, unprecedented.

The messages we publish are under a microscope, and rightly so. Curating just the right tone for your communication approach is imperative to your brand’s success through this temporary, yet highly sensitive time. Here are our top five tips to help brands strike the right tone during difficult times:

  1. Keep it human. See.Spark.Go President & Co-founder Brittany Thoms says it best: “It’s all about staying relevant and human.” Audiences are far more likely to give to, buy from or support people-forward organizations over faceless brands. It’s imperative that brands carry an empathetic tone that fits whatever its audience is experiencing in the moment.
  2. Stay aspirational. Shed a light! Your audience is ultimately looking to you to be a resource, example or inspiration for the type of life they want to live. Keep producing the good stuff—just make sure it doesn’t read as “oblivious” to current events.
  3. Check it twice, or more. Brands are currently reevaluating the tone of their ads and social content. Many have had to pull spots, shelve already-produced work for another time, or retool existing content. While it may feel like wasted effort to scrap that awesome campaign you worked so hard on, if it no longer makes sense within the global climate, you (and your leadership, clients, and consumers) will be so glad you decided to pivot. 
  4. Humor and sarcasm aren’t out! Just run it through several sensitivity filters before hitting “publish.”
  5. Be generous. Consumers are looking to see what you can offer to the community in these times. Are you adapting your operational services to meet current needs, or possibly reimagining your business model to focus on customer convenience? Keep working to create value for those you serve by meeting them where they’re at, and you will be rewarded.

We hope you will view this time as an opportunity to evaluate your brand through a new lens and lean into better understanding your audience. Approach them as if you were approaching yourself—as humans who are also navigating uncharted waters. They may not want to be “sold” to right now, and we have to respect that. Take this time instead to cultivate community and foster loyalty among your audience, and they’ll continue to support you in the long term.

Social media for brands requires a deep understanding of your target market, which is why See.Spark.Go invests heavily in time and resources to help brands listen and respond to the audiences they serve. For more on See.Spark.Go’s crisis management approach and how we can serve your brand with social media management and tone development, get in touch.