While social distancing is the new normal, there are some important lessons marketers, and their agencies, can learn from other crises in the not so distant past. Different times require different actions.

1. You have to make course corrections on your media spend and messaging.

This is not the time to bombard consumers with messages totally unrelated to the topic at hand and top of mind; they’re not in the mood to listen. Organizations and brands that merely “stay the course,” not making any adjustments,  are pouring dollars down the drain.  One might argue that “my funny commercial” or “new brand video” is just what the doctor ordered, but studies of past social crises indicate that people just can’t get enough news and information about CV-19 right now.  They don’t want to be “enlightened” by other messages while their energies are fixed on the problem.

2. You should stay in the market, but in relevant and appropriate ways.

Studies also show that during recessions, and social/economic disasters, advertisers should not go completely dark.  Loss of awareness and market momentum requires as much as five times the normal spend to make up for lost ground when footing becomes more solid.  So, it’s important to stay out there, but in relevant ways.  Virtual “situation rooms” with your full team are essential to talk through and take corrective measures with your messaging and channeling, especially in social media.  How your brand is responding to CV-19 and  how it’s engaging your marketplace is mission critical.

 3. Now is not the time to introduce a new brand or campaign.

Can’t tell you how many LinkedIn and other social media posts have focused on bringing something “new” to the market.  You might have had the big launch planned for months, even a year, but now is not the time to press the button.  All that hard work will be lost in the noise and confusion surrounding the CV-19 virus.  Besides, internal communications are key to a new launch, and with so many people working from home, best to wait it out and pick the right time.  When the dust settles, you’ll be glad you did.

4. Now is not the time to force a client meeting or action.

I know this sounds obvious, but agency people are persuasive types.  That’s why we are in the business.  I’ve scanned many LinkedIn posts from those on the client side who seem to be hugely annoyed at their agency right now for repeatedly calling and requesting a (virtual) meeting to “keep the ball moving.”  What I’m reading that appears to be sitting well with clients:  letting  them know you’re here for them and if they need anything, you’re operational and able to help them through this crisis personally and professionally.

5. It’s also not the time to send solicitous emails. 

Like you, I’ve probably received over a hundred emails these last few days from companies selling their services.  Not in reference to the virus, not as a solution to my current business needs, and not in any way/shape/form related to what’s happening in the world.  From music searches to “new” direct mail lists, this is not the time to sell me something – I’m not buying!  Oh, and I do appreciate your “sincere” well wishes for me and my family during these troubling times, as indicated in your email.  Do I know you?

HOW YOU ACT NOW WILL DETERMINE HOW I’LL ACT IN THE FUTURE.

6. Agency folks: It’s not business as usual. 

Your clients are struggling and being torn in many different directions to weather this storm.  If you have great relationships with them, be empathetic and let them know you’re there for them (#4).  Put your skills to use in relevant ways and think about how you can provide a true value add.  Think creatively, not in terms of big ideas and ads,  but in new ideas and business solutions  that will benefit your clients during the storm. You’ll see – when their world calms down, they’ll remember who was there for them.

7. Client folks: We know you’re not ignoring us.

You’re probably working from home, too, with many distractions and new fires that require your attention.  We know you’re not paying as much attention to meeting reports and proposals, so we’re going to go easy on you. Challenge us to help you through these difficult times.  Don’t feel you need to do it all “in-house” and have the belief that your agency partner is not interested in the ‘small stuff.’ We are here for you and have your personal and professional best interests in mind.  While you’re dealing with the pressures of sales goals and customer volumes, we’re using our time to learn new ideas and remedies that might be helpful to you.

8. We will all get through this together.

At the time of this writing, there’s not much good news to report.  The virus is rising in reported cases and the market is falling.  Businesses are struggling and employee wages are in question, if not non-existent.

We are all in this together and as history has proven, we’ll make it through this together.  With every crisis comes a new normal.  I’m not sure what that will be yet, but perhaps it’s the way we view our partnerships, work, and cultural surroundings as well as professional sensitivities. There’s a fast-growing plant-based food chain, Plant Power Fast Food (plantpowerfastfood.com) that has always been a great community citizen in the markets they serve.  They have a very strong mission and cultural compass.  To help support their employees during this difficult time, they are selling tee-shirts and the proceeds are going directly to their staff.  The shirts don’t tout their amazing sandwiches and creative concoctions – but share a message that I’ll leave you with:

Be good to yourself.  Be good to others.

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