The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has left many with more questions than answers. Some of those questions for businesses might be how do we communicate with our customers? How can we understand what’s important to them during this time? We all want to show we care about this crisis, so we put together a few tips to help plan messaging and understand the current search landscape.
DON’T: Dismiss the Need to Communicate
Now more than ever, people have questions. We’re left wondering whether or not we should leave our houses, so if someone might make the decision to come to your business, it’s important to communicate whether they can or should. It’s also important to assure your customers that their safety and the safety of your team is valuable, which might impact your operations. And for service-based businesses, it’s important to communicate whether or not you’re working (even if your team is now remote) and continuing to provide the high quality service your clients have come to expect.
DO: Reach Your Audiences Where They’re Listening
Critical information should be easily accessible from your homepage. Use a banner at the top of every page if your operations are significantly impacted (closures, shipment delays, etc.), and for all other general information, a link from the homepage will be enough. Share updates on social media as information changes or there are any new announcements, but don’t overdo it and feel the need to post about COVID-19 everyday if there isn’t any new information to share from your business.
DO: Update and Watch Google My Business Regularly
For businesses with storefronts or retail locations, now is a critical time to be updating your information on Google My Business. Google continues to update how they’re letting businesses manage their information, so it’s important to check daily to see what new features are available and to confirm that Google is still showing the most accurate information about your operations.
At present, there are several options you should focus on for messaging:
- If your business is completely closed, no one will be at your location for an unknown amount of time, and you’re unable to continue operations from home, leverage Google’s “temporarily closed” option, which can be turned on indefinitely and then turned off once operations resume
- If you’re still operating but closed to walk in traffic (such as a restaurant that is only servicing carryout and delivery or a bank that is operating drive thru and ATM services only), update your business description and make a COVID-19 post outlining the updates to operations, but do not mark your business as closed
- If you are operating with reduced or extended hours or have to close for an extra day, use special hours to indicate any of these changes
DO: Create Content for Your Customers AND Employees
Don’t forget about the people who make your business run. This is a crazy time for everyone, and most likely your team is going to have questions about how things are going to be impacted internally. Oftentimes we focus messaging on customers and forget that this is a confusing time for our teams as well.
DON’T: Make Your Content Generic
Your inbox is probably flooded with plenty of emails with “A Statement from our CEO on COVID-19” as the subject line. The general consensus is that these are being promptly deleted, so unless you’re going to share that you’re covering the pay and benefits for team members who are laid off (which is good transparency for enterprise brands), you might want to hold off on sending one more generic message about COVID-19.
DO: Create Content That Addresses How Your Operations Are Impacted
To avoid making the content generic, be clear about what people can expect from your business going forward. Address the specific changes that your business has had to make, like closing retail storefronts or switching credit union branches to drive thru only service.
DO: Reevaluate Your Social Media and Content Calendars
Take a critical magnifying glass to the messaging you had planned for the coming weeks and months and shift your language as needed. This year, April Fool's Day pranks were widely discouraged at the risk of seeming insensitive. Another great example is a Spotify ad (sorry, no premium account here!) for a certain large insurance agency that claims the insurance agent is one of the most important people in a certain town - that might not be the best message to put out as our communities rally behind our healthcare workers, first responders, grocery clerks, truck drivers, bank tellers, and others who are continuing to provide essential services. You’ll also want to look out for any sales, coupons, or promotions that you might not be able to fulfill, for example if they were in-store only. Audiences are hyper-aware of the content and messages brands are putting out, so put people first when planning your content.
DO: Explore Other Forms of Media
Video, podcasts, webinars, etc. As you revisit the messages you’ll be sending over the coming weeks and months, reconsider how you’ll be sending them. Videos and podcasts are two great ways to engage with audiences that can be made relatively quickly. In these times, a video with lower production quality is completely acceptable and allows you to connect with your audience in a real way.
DO: Review Search Console & Paid Search Terms for Realtime Insights
Leverage the insights you’re already generating from your digital channels to see how search behavior is changing for your audience right now. In Google Search Console, you can filter queries for any that contain “COVID” or “Coronavirus” to see how often your site is appearing for searches related to the pandemic. Additionally, if you see that impressions are increasing or decreasing, you can compare time periods to see what products or categories of content are causing the changes. The same can be said about your Search Terms report in Google Ads - based on the match types and keyword strategies, you might see new types of searches emerging that you might want to leverage in your messaging.
Now is also a great time to make use of Google Trends to identify what keywords are or are not trending upwards in your industry, outside of COVID-19 related queries. There might be emerging opportunities and unmet needs that you can fill now that people have more time to browse or are facing new challenges.
DO: Take the Time to Invest in Content
While we’re all taking the time to reach out to customers and employees and explain all the changes that might be taking place, you might also find yourself with extra time on your hands (depending on the impact COVID-19 has had on your industry). This is a great time to dust off some content projects that you just haven’t had the time to start on yet. Now is also the time to start thinking about what the “new normal” will look like once we’re all able to restart and get back out into the world. What new challenges might consumers face that your business can address? Start planning for that content now instead of rushing to get it produced once the new normal hits.
DON’T: Make COVID-19 a Long-Term Content Strategy
While there are certainly pockets of opportunity emerging for some businesses, especially any that make life at home easier, you shouldn’t totally redevelop your content strategy to plan on addressing the current conditions months and years down the road. This is a global crisis that we’ll all remember, but this too will come to an end and you won’t want to find yourself writing irrelevant content once audiences are ready to move on.
DO: Be Open, Honest, and Genuine
Now isn’t the time for fake messaging or sleazy sales tactics. We are experiencing more in the past few weeks than we ever expected, and it’s important to keep that in mind. The actions a brand takes now will be remembered for months and years to come, so focus on how you can help and connect with your audience.