How Businesses Can Shift Marketing Messaging During the COVID19 Crisis

By Kathryn Hawkins. Content Marketing Content Strategy
Compass in hand
Shift your marketing message   Credit:  DmitryPoch via Depositphotos  License: Depositphotos

Coronavirus has changed everything - including your business. Here are some strategies to help you adapt your marketing.

In the last couple of weeks, our lives have been completely upended by the coronavirus crisis. Chances are, your vacation plans have been cancelled—or maybe even your wedding. You’re not sure exactly when you’ll be able to see your best friend or even your parents again.

Breathe deep—we’re all in the same boat, and dealing with anxiety and stress. It helps to acknowledge it and be aware that this is not business as usual.

So in this environment, which is feeling increasingly like an episode of Black Mirror, it can be truly jarring to see the same-old, same-old marketing messages—for example, the email blasts about how to keep your kids from climbing on the walls during spring break don’t feel so relevant when schools may be closed for months.

However, it doesn’t mean it’s time to go dark. Instead, take a good look at your messaging and see how you can make it relevant to your prospective customers. Don’t be an opportunist—after all, the guy who sold hand sanitizer for $70 a pop didn’t exactly make any friends.

Here are a few strategies for making the most of a difficult situation:

First, see if you need to pivot

Not all goods and services will appeal to people when they’re facing real economic uncertainty and the threat of a serious illness. If your offering isn’t something that’s essential to people’s wellbeing, they may not be in the market right now.

That said, some businesses have found ways to pivot: For example, Canlis, a high-end restaurant in Seattle knew that there would be next to no market for $150-a-head dinners during this time of crisis. But the restaurant has 115 staff it wants to keep employed, and people still need to eat. So they changed business models completely: The restaurant now offers drive-through bagels at breakfast, burgers at lunch, and delivered family meals at dinner.

And fashion designers like Christian Siriano have shifted from haute couture style to focus instead on using their factories to make much-needed masks and gowns for hospital workers.

Think about whether your business model is a good fit for the current market, and if not, get creative about ways that you can keep your employees busy on new initiatives that fill the demand we face in today’s much-changed economy.

Focus on empathic messaging

Empathy has always been a cornerstone of marketing—in order to connect with a customer, you need to understand how they’re feeling and what’s going to resonate with them.

If you have scheduled campaigns that you set in motion last month, freeze them. We’re living in a totally different world today, and any clever jokes you came up with then aren’t going to play well today. 

Look at your branding through the lens of today’s economy. Certain segments may do well (i.e. remote work tools, online learning tools, pantry staples), but most luxury or discretionary items are not a fit for today’s consumers. If your product isn’t a must-purchase item, think about how your brand can do something meaningful for society, such as by donating a percentage of profits to a charity. Follow up with customers who’ve shown interest in purchasing products through retargeting, but turn off your static email blasts. Now more than ever, it’s a time to follow the customer’s lead and make sure that you’re responding to their needs.

Focus on relevant ways to connect with customers in their environment

Your conference schedule for the whole rest of the year is up in the air right now. Rather than plan for future events that are uncertain, redirect your marketing efforts into programs that can connect with potential customers through virtual events and content marketing, with webinars, podcasts, videos, blog content, and ebooks. Look for opportunities to build a contact network of subject-matter experts who can share relevant insights for your content, rather than simply focusing on your own company.

Be agile and flexible in your editorial plan

While you might be used to planning out your editorial calendar a quarter or two in advance, don’t be rigid about it right now: We’re not likely to have a normal year, so normal seasonal trends aren’t likely to apply. For now, create some evergreen content that you know will be applicable in any scenario, and leave plenty of space for more time-sensitive content based on recent events and how they’ll impact your industry.



Above all else, be gentle with yourself and with everyone you encounter, whether employees or customers. Everyone is going through a tough time right now, so kindness and compassion go a long way to help build positive relationships that will carry your business through it.

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than 16 years.

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