How Should Your Messaging Change in Response to COVID-19?

Scott Burdsall

3 minute read

Please consider the following when discussing COVID-19 messages:

“Learn to respond, not react” – Tara Brach.

I’ll get right to it. Please consider if your company should send a message about COVID-19 at all. Is your message news or noise? Everyone is aware of the situation, but as Gartner nicely points out, brands must consider how your message will impact an inbox that is already piling up with COVID-related messages.

“Littering your customers’ inbox with indistinguishable and interchangeable emails won’t reduce customer worries; what will do that are messages that lead with customers’ WIIFM—‘what’s in it for me?’”

—Beware of Virtue Signaling or Outright Greed in Brand Communications About COVID-19, Gartner

We couldn’t have said it any better.

If you are certain your message is going to add value to your subscribers, then also consider how your messaging must change with this new normal. Few people want to hear a CEO’s perspective on the situation unless it includes some description of how their company is reacting to the global crisis.

Consider how your messaging will change:

  1. How does COVID impact how you do business with your customers? What is your company doing to adapt?
    • It would be prudent to alert your subscribers about the closure of physical locations (gyms, retail stores, restaurants) or to give details about your business evolution for the foreseeable future (Postmates, Grubhub). The same goes for adjustments in business hours and new procedures or precautions needed to do business.
  2. How do your existing campaigns change as a result of this crisis?
    • Immediately begin going through your scheduled campaigns to modify/remove insensitive content. Now is not the time to feature airline promotions.
  3. Does the messaging for automated campaigns need to be addressed and changed to suit the current climate?
    • Check your automations (welcome, alerts, off-boarding, and other journeys) to ensure messaging is still relevant. Don’t be situationally tone-deaf.

Keeping the focus on the consumer experience, (WIIFM), should act as your guide. Consider using an internal consumer focus group to test messages before sending them to a wider audience. It is safe to say that people are carefully watching to see how other people and brands react during a time of crisis–looking for bad actors capitalizing on the crisis.

“Keeping the focus on the consumer experience should act as your guide.”

It is very possible that you are reading this after having already sent a general COVID-19 email. That’s okay. If that’s the case, any follow-ups should still focus on the consumer experience. Does it make sense to send an email this month to talk about travel insurance with the bans in place? How about urging customers to fill up their cars with gas 3-4 times a month when we’re told not to leave the house? What about scaring people about other issues that probably don’t need to be highlighted right now? Ultimately, what are some ways your brand can highlight useful resources in this new normal?

Consider if the message should be a dedicated send or delivered in a new/dynamic module within an existing campaign. It is very likely that your brand can address how your company is handling the situation passively in existing baseline sends. Perhaps a subject line takeover is warranted, perhaps not. Regardless, this is a simple way to address the situation with your subscribers without the need for a dedicated campaign. We must be mindful of unnecessary noise, now more than ever.

Really Good Emails has a running list of Emergency Emails that should be reviewed before planning your own campaign. Again, when reviewing these, ask yourself if the examples are news (helpful guidance) or noise (no immediate takeaways or new information). The situation is evolving rapidly, and email marketers have a responsibility to be the cooler heads in the room.

Additional resources:

Aweber: 8-Step Guide to Email Marketing during a crisis

Only Influencers: Round-up: CoronaVirus and Email Marketing

Really Good Emails: Emergency Emails

Trendline Interactive

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About the Author(s)

Scott Burdsall

Scott Burdsall is the Practice Lead, Strategy Consulting at Trendline Interactive, where he focuses on creating messaging and segmentation strategies to drive maximum conversions while maintaining a strong focus on the optimal omni channel user experience. He has 13 years of email marketing and product management experience, creating and maintaining programs for both B2C and B2B audiences and overseeing everything from day-to-day campaign management to platform migrations. Scott graduated from The University of Iowa and lives outside of Chicago, Illinois with his wife and two children. Scott enjoys music, running, and fixing up old bikes in his spare time. Follow Scott on LinkedIn

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