The global spread of the coronavirus and fear of the virus already have caused significant disruptions in supply chains, corporate profits, economic growth and government policy. No one knows how bad things will get before they get better, but marketers need to be prepared.
Ready for More Online Traffic, Target Carefully and Prep for Delays
Certain industries are more likely to be significantly affected as people shun travel and large gatherings: airlines, cruises, events of all kinds (perhaps even the Tokyo Olympics), business conferences, hospitality, and even retail venues. Supply disruptions also could affect sectors ranging from auto manufacturing to high tech to promotional products. A general slowdown could cut advertising spend initially, but experts believe it is more likely that there will be a reallocation of dollars to cater to quarantined or self-isolating consumers via mail order, digital marketing and e-commerce for product sales; via online entertainment such as video and gaming options; and even via streaming of sports events instead of stadium venues. In a recent blog, AI and data tech company Appier suggested tactics to leverage this rise in online consumption by using online data to identify coronavirus concerns and deliver targeted relevant content and advertising via keyword segmentation, which is especially relevant for health, wellness, medical, and sanitation sectors. Companies can also develop more branded online apps, games, and videos to compete for the expanded online audience. Plus, it will be important to use AI and audience data for contextual targeting and proper placement of advertising (no travel ads in China) to avoid creating a negative brand impression. Because companies may face logistical delays, they need to commit to transparent multichannel communications on product shortages and estimated delivery times, as well as timely response to questions and complaints, advises Appier. At the same time, increased engagement via website, e-mail, social media, push notifications or in-app messaging can bring customers closer and help reduce frustration levels and attrition.
Set the Right Tone With Empathetic Messaging
Appier also stressed that marketers need to set the right messaging tone for an anxious audience, avoiding the hard sell in favor of customer and community support. In a PR Week interview, Priyanka Bajpai, regional head, Southeast Asia, SPAG Group, promoted the company’s 3E approach to messaging during the crisis: Empathy to show cautious optimism and trust in the future ability to work together and find solutions; Engagement of internal and external stakeholders to inspire confidence; and Education using multiple channels to outline the criticality of the situation and steps taken by the brand to support stakeholders. Brands may also want to highlight nonprofit support efforts to address the pandemic. Prince Zhang, CEO, Greater China, Ketchum, advised PR Week: “If you are a big enterprise that makes donations to fight coronavirus, you should make a precise external announcement with key information around the exact amount of donations, the recipient organizations, the purpose of donations, logistics etc. Brands should avoid any marketing around the donations.”
Create a PR Communications Plan Before Things Get Critical
In a recent Business2Community post, William Comcowich, interim CEO of customized media monitoring and analytics firm Glean.info, advised developing a PR Communications Action Plan just in case the crisis deepens and lengthens. Under the plan, a company would 1) stay informed and ready to act by continuously monitoring the media and regularly engaging with stakeholders; 2) emphasize employee safety, including travel plans and remote or telecommuting options; 3) boost corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities by contributing to relevant social causes (such as the Red Cross working in China); and 4) supply reliable information to staff and customers and also counter misinformation.