Given the current situation with Coronavirus, business owners are scrambling to adjust to Plan B—the one that tells us how to show up in a socially-isolated, quarantined world that no one saw coming. The one that requires a different kind of communication that’s not in your brand voice guide. The one that requires a perfect blend of sensitivity, leadership, and marketing savvy.
Since a rule book does not yet exist on how to handle copywriting during the Coronavirus crisis, consider this my humble attempt at creating one.
The truth is, just because we’re in the midst of a pandemic, sales aren’t going to stop. Nor should they. Contrary to what some people on social media suggest, it’s not heartless to sell your products and services during this difficult time.
If you sell something that helps people, it’s your responsibility to make sure the people who need your products and services can get them.
Just this morning I was helping my 77-year-old mother, who lives alone, 500 miles away from me, order groceries. Her age and her health put her in the high-risk category for Coronavirus. And given the distance between us, it’s not easy for me to make sure she has what she needs when she needs it. Enter online grocery shopping. Right now, we need someone to shop for and deliver groceries to her, stat. That’s why I’m so grateful companies like Instacart exist. Is it “wrong” for them to be marketing during this challenging season of life? Absolutely not! They’re helping us when we need help. End of story.
That said, let’s dig into copywriting during a crisis – the do’s and don’ts in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis.
- Do keep integrity at the forefront of everything you write.
Come from a place of service. Empathy and compassion should guide your words. Any copywriter worth their weight knows empathy is critical in copy. But it’s even more critical when your prospects, clients, partners, and staff members are filled with fear and uncertainty. Think about it, the media is flooding our minds with worst-case scenarios. And those who use social media are being bombarded with negativity. This is your chance to swoop in like a superhero and rescue people with your solutions. But there’s no faster way to repel people during a crisis than to make them feel as if you’re trying to take advantage of them. So you need to make sure you dress your sales copy with sensitivity. To do this, make sure you:
- level the playing field
- acknowledge the reality of the pain they’re in
- empathize with the way they may feel as a result of their pain
- explain how you’re going to help alleviate their pain
- turn a negative into a positive
Let’s say you’re running one of the companies that have been forced to postpone a conference you’ve been planning for months. Here’s an example of an email you could send to people after notifying them of the postponement.
Let me walk you through what I did here:
- I “leveled the playing field” in this message by sharing how the recipient was looking forward to attending the event and the sender was looking forward to hosting it. I made it clear that they’re on the same team.
- I “acknowledged the reality of the pain the reader is in” and “empathized with the way the reader may be feeling” by calling out the elephant in the room and then acknowledging and validating their feelings.
- I explained how the sender was going to help “alleviate the pain of the reader” by giving a concrete example of something the sender had done to solve the problem. A lot of companies talk about caring and say they’re going to do things to help, but when push comes to shove, it’s just talk. You’ll stand out in all the right ways if you actually do something.
- And finally, I “turned a negative into a positive” when I told the reader the sender was committed to making the rescheduled event even better than the one they had to cancel.
This model works.
- Do humanize your marketing messages.
I must have more than 100 messages in my inbox right now that all basically say the same thing. It’s as if one person wrote the original message and every other person on the planet used it as their template. Here’s an example:
If you want to stand out in the marketplace, don’t send the same boilerplate message everyone else is sending.
Your customers are people. Real people, with beating hearts & feelings. Acknowledge them. Take the time to do more than just cover your butt legally. Write a message that’s personal. No, no, no, I’m not saying you need to write individual messages to everyone in your database, but I am saying you need to write something original. The example above is from a company that has multiple locations. They could have easily humanized this message—while still covering their safety protocol—by adding a little something that was location-specific. That’s just one of about 10 billion ways to humanize your email marketing messages.
- Do ensure your messages quickly provide the solutions your people need, right when they need them.
The email I received this weekend from Sitterwise, a San Diego Babysitting company absolutely nailed this. San Diego (where I live) just closed all schools. For the next MONTH (insert scary music). Working parents are losing their minds trying to figure out what to do with their kids now. Sitterwise took immediate action. Once a resource some only used on date nights, now, their clients know Sitterwise will ensure their children are being well-cared for, while they do what they need to do to keep their jobs. #HighFiveSitterwise
- Don’t get on a soapbox.
You may passionately believe people are blowing this way out of proportion and panicking for no legitimate reason. Or, you may be adamant that people are in grave danger and that they need their hand slapped every time they choose to do something you believe to be irresponsible and even dangerous. You’re welcome to have your own opinion; however, this is NOT the time to insist that your way is the right way. Instead, this is when you need to make an extra effort to unify those you influence. To show compassion for both sides of the coin, and respect people regardless of which direction they choose to go. I’ve seen so many people publish destructive posts on social media. Their intention is likely good, but their execution couldn’t be worse. When you’re fired up, you probably shouldn’t post anything on social media at all. Instead, take a walk. Breathe in the fresh air. Think about how you can share your perspective with authentic love and patience for those who may disagree with you. Then, and only then, post your message. In not so many words, lay down your sword in the social sphere. You may need to fight for your right to party, but you don’t need to fight to be right during a pandemic.
Remember, you may not be able to control Coronavirus, but you can most certainly control the way your company responds to it. Don’t just say your company cares about its customers, show it.
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