Digital Marketing in a Pandemic
By Mark Campbell and William Collier
The COVID-19 pandemic is massively disruptive, and one of the major disruptions is coming from how people communicate and what they expect online. We are seeing anecdotal shifts among our clients and fellow professionals in the digital communications space. But we are also looking at traffic trends and behavior across a broad spectrum of clients: not only is traffic increasing, but users want more out of the online experience.
We are also seeing mistakes being made and want to urge campaigns and political campaigns to make some big changes. So here is some advice for digital communicators in the COVID-19 era.
Be indirect and beneficial. Your messaging right now must be relevant to the needs and concern of your audience and cannot be directly about you. Consider running ads about how to give blood to the Red Cross, COVID-19 resources, emergency contact numbers, debunking fake news, or a local food-bank in need. People see your ad and say “I should share this because it’s useful”. Observe your shares and interactions to ensure you are hitting the right tone.
Don’t oversaturate your channel with the same message. People don’t want to see the same content blasted over and over. You need to find many ways to communicate to created repeated positive exposures that build your organic community. Find multiple channels, subjects, and methods to communicate and diverse helpful subjects to communicate. It’s better to nudge people to share your content organically than to just pay for ads. Your paid content needs to generate organic engagement. Organic engagement is where real people share real content for a common purpose.
Be subtle. No one wants to see you beating your chest and tooting your horn. Stop thanking your employees and supporters, and quit patting yourself on the back for charitable actions. The thrust of your communication should be a quality public service announcement that will help people some way, somehow. It would be seen as publicly beneficial and coming from a true servant’s heart.
Embrace the coronavirus. If possible, you should try to include some reference to the coronavirus in virtually everything you do. It doesn’t have to be explicit. It’s more about evoking a mood and empathizing with your target audience. People are deeply affected by this pandemic. It’s top-of-mind for your audience. Will I get sick? Is my family going to be ok? Will I still have a job next week? You can connect with people by creating messages with a context that show you understand this—and feel it too.
Check out the competition. You simply must increase your awareness of what your competitors or political opponents are doing and saying. This is an unprecedented crisis. Everybody is communicating in the COVID-19 era for the first time. There is data everywhere that can help you learn, adapt and refine your approach. Watching your competition is the best way to discover a comparative marketing advantage you can use to build your own audience.
For the next 30 to 90 days you have a captive audience online such as you may not see again for a long time. You must get in front of this audience of potential followers and fans right now. Remember, put them first, put their needs first. At present those needs are staying alive, staying healthy, and preparing for an uncertain future. If you do this, you will build a thriving organic community of people who want to continually see what you are saying and doing.
Mark P. Campbell is a leading lecturer, political strategist, and consultant, Mark is the founder of Intellz.com and has consulted for presidential campaigns and the RNC. William R. Collier Jr. is an author and a principal at Intellz.com, he specializes in digital communications and research. Their work has been praised by the likes of Steve Forbes and Ted Cruz. Their company website is www.intellz.com.