Observations Learned from the Coronavirus Pandemic

By the time you read this, most of us will have spent upwards of four months dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and all its repercussions. As a marketing professional, I have taken this opportunity to reflect on some of the things that have worked well and some that need improvement.

Recognizing the Crisis 

Once a developing situation has been recognized, it is important, as expert Janet Balis stated in a recent Harvard Business Review article, for "marketers…to [continue] building deeper connections with their C-suite colleagues to provide insights to executives who, increasingly, will be involved with marketing choices. The marketing team should work closely with finance and operations to forecast different scenarios and potential outcomes, depending on how long the crisis lasts." Marketers will need to be directly involved in leadership's plans for addressing the impending crisis.

Pivot Quickly

As observed throughout this current national crisis, the marketing team must be nimble in transitioning away from long-planned campaigns and projects and adjust in real time. Make sure product information is up-to-date across all channels and communications to ensure you're striking the right tone. Additionally, social listening will help develop effective response strategies, strengthen community connections, and build trust. Being agile in a pending crisis environment is important. Once you have understood something needs to be done, do it quickly. If a problem or action is new, and hasn't been encountered before, waiting for the experts might be too late. 

"Your team's ideas should help mitigate the panic and provide consumers information that is positive, valuable, and solution-driven," states Warren Marenco Chase in his article, Creativity Amid Crisis: How Marketers Can Navigate Outbreaks and Uncertainties, for the American Marketing Association.

Importance of Messaging in a Crisis

What has been immensely successful during this pandemic is when organizations use transparent and personal messaging. It is important to stay one step ahead of the crisis by communicating with stakeholders quickly and efficiently. 

You will want to ensure you are dealing with accurate and confirmed information from reputable sources. As we all know, times like these can be confusing and frightening, resulting in a magnification of speculation and confusion. You will want to minimize the opportunities for that to occur. Don't create an informational vacuum for everyone to begin creating their own narratives. Balis also stated, "In these moments, we don't have all the answers, and we need to acknowledge that."

It is crucial to understand the ultimate goals of the communications being delivered. During times of upheaval, it usually is not the time to try to market or sell, but rather an opportunity to reinforce the values that define your organization. 

One thing to remember is "crisis management is a series of deliberate decisions the company makes to dampen the broader impact of what they are facing. It isn't just communications," states Anne Marie Malecha, senior vice president and partner at Dezenhall Resources, a leading high-stakes public affairs and crisis management firm in Washington, D.C. We're all in is a crisis management situation. Now, and for the foreseeable future, this will be an occasion to take advantage to make the company better, fortify relationships with the customers that matter most, improve operations, and even solidify the partnership between sales and marketing that will serve the organization well into the future. 

Further Reading:

  • Janet Balis, Brand Marketing Through the Coronavirus Crisis, Harvard Business Review
  • Warren Marenco Chase, Creativity Amid Crisis: How Marketers Can Navigate Outbreaks and Uncertainties, American Marketing Association
  • Jennifer Davis, 7 Habits Of Successful Crisis Management: Aligning Sales And Marketing In The Storm, Forbes

Ruff is marketing director at Ixonia Bank and a member of the 2020-2021 WBA Marketing Committee.