Communicating during COVID-19

By BlackDog’s Marketing Team

There’s no question that we’re currently living in uncertain times. We understand that many of us are facing the harsh reality of layoffs, canceled business, and little to no income during this pandemic. The coronavirus has truly led to a dramatic shift in not only the way we do business but also the way we communicate. Amid this “social distancing” period, it can be a challenging and delicate balance between keeping your brand present in the minds of consumers and trying to prepare for an eventual return to normalcy for all. This article, the first in our COVID Communication Series of blogs, will provide insight and guidance on the best practices for communicating during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as positioning your brand for a faster comeback with little investment.

What you’ll learn

  • Transparency is key
  • Stay in touch with your audience
  • Five communication tips
  • Utilizing organic marketing channels
  • See how organizations are incorporating these strategies

Marketing messages should shift, not shut off

The important thing to remember at a time like this is communication matters. Unlike the cinema, silence is not golden. You’ve probably noticed an influx of emails from all types of brands, outlining how they’re navigating through this time. Well, that’s because people are actively listening and seeking information right now. The important thing to remember is that transparency is key. Whether it be good news or bad news, people just want direct communication on the situation. Maybe you don’t have all the answers at the moment, but people will be more accepting of any information during this time, if it’s honest and direct. If you go dark on your audience, they’re left to draw their own conclusions, which most of the time leads to angry customers. Think of it this way:

  • You walk into a store and nobody acknowledges you. You then approach the cash register and, again, nobody responds to you. Now you’ve been standing there for several minutes furious with no information.
  • Now replay that scenario and imagine someone greets you as you enter and asks for a few minutes of patience till they can assist you. Now you’re waiting calmly because you know what is going on.


Set the precedent now on how and where your audience can gather all the necessary information they need from your organization. It doesn’t take a ton of resources to send out a social media post or mass email to your audience. Consumers are closely monitoring how each brand is responding to this adversity. Because of this, a clear and direct statement from leadership is essential. People will be visiting your brand’s website expecting real-time updates, making it the perfect place to host your organization’s leadership statement and any other vital information.

When crafting a statement, there are five communication tips that can help you hit all the right notes:

  • The first step is acknowledging the situation. Open by stating awareness of the event or issue. There’s no hiding what is going on around us. Be honest about what and how you see it. Convey a positive attitude balancing urgency and prevention of panic.
  • The second step is empathy. There’s no way to quantify the number of people affected by this pandemic, not only medically but also economically. We are all struggling, together. Remember that people are vulnerable at a time like this. Keep that in mind while writing your message and show compassion for all.
  • The third step is highlighting your brand’s values. Remind your audience that you’ve built an organization, rooted upon core values, that will help you withstand and overcome any obstacle—including this one.
  • The fourth step is your brand’s approach. Explain how your organization will handle the current situation, including what has already been done and future plans. Whether it be minor or major changes, every bit of information provides value.
  • The fifth and final step is commitment. Everything up till now is fantastic, but it’s how your brand follows through that most will remember. Outline to your readers how your organization intends to execute this plan and remain committed to the goals you’ve set forth.

Inexpensive marketing channels

Now that you’ve notified your audience on how your brand is shifting gears, it’s time to pivot your brand’s marketing too. Right now, social media and email marketing are more vital than ever. These are people that have already established a relationship with your brand, as they have elected to share their information with you. Use this time to continue fostering that relationship and building trust. Remember, they want to hear from you in a time like this. This is especially true in regard to email. For billions of people worldwide, email is the number one way to communicate. In fact, most people prefer to receive their COVID-related information via email, as it’s currently the top organic channel, according to Edelman Research. The best part? You reach 98% of your audience when utilizing your email database. Your email database should be your most engaged audience. Regular email updates not only strengthen brand loyalty but also help reinforce an organization’s credibility.

People all over the world have taken to social media to elevate the experiences of others and share information, as 85% of the Twitter conversation consists of retweets. If you are using a marketing calendar via Sprout Social, Hootsuite or other software, now’s the time to review all scheduled posts and pause any that are not sensitive to the current situation. Make sure you eliminate any posts that do not reflect the current social conditions we all have to abide by—a heavier focus on empathy for the community rather than trying to create easy selling opportunities. Create organic posts to show support and unity for your neighbors. If you’re unsure of what to post or how to respond, consider asking your audience. Now is a great time to get feedback from customers and utilize social listening to inform your strategy. Social listening is a quick, easy way to get a pulse on this conversation. Your comments section is a great resource for collecting feedback. Use it to your advantage and respond to certain individuals who can provide you with valuable information moving forward. But don’t just look at your own feed—scan the social feeds of others in your industry. Use this as a tool to see how those brands are engaging in their conversations. These practices will help keep engagement between you and your followers flowing while also helping to build and maintain trust in your brand.

How other brands are incorporating these strategies

Slowly but surely, we will all be returning to our normal routines. It’s important to remember that everyone is dealing with their fair share of adversity right now. So it’s truly about doing what you can do to be helpful and in front of people. With that in mind, here are a few great examples:

The Deering Estate

Deering Estate recently started their Pay It Forward campaign by asking their followers to purchase a ticket on behalf of a first-responder or health-care professional, redeemable at any time of the year, upon reopening. The Deering Estate will then match each ticket one-for-one, up to 5,000 entrance passes. That’s a total of 10,000 entrance passes, all being donated to a good cause. This is not only a goodwill act for the community, but it also helps reinforce to their audience that the Deering Estate is an ideal place to spend the day, sharing quality family time with loved ones.

Key West Aquarium

With a limited staff and budget, Key West Aquarium found an innovative solution to continue reaching their audience by holding virtual tours for kids while the aquarium is closed. This offers parents a much needed resource during this social distancing period while showcasing the incredible marine life living at Key West Aquarium. It not only enhances brand loyalty but makes parents and children more inclined to visit the aquarium and explore firsthand.

Skinny Latina

Our final example features a savvy use of social media. Ana Quincoces held a live cooking demo series for her followers with delicious recipes showcasing her sauces and marinade. The response was fantastic as her fans tuned in eager to pick up new tips while they’re home dabbling in the kitchen. This was a low-cost and easy way to engage with her audience while still promoting her brand.

Although these are challenging times, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. Being transparent and strategic is more imperative now than ever before. The tips listed above should help your brand establish proper footing for a return to normalcy, without losing a presence in the minds of consumers. Just remember that communication is always the key.

Click below to read the second installment of our four-part series:

*All stats and research provided by:
Communicating through the coronavirus crisis

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