How to apply the right corporate communication during the times of COVID-19: Actions to Take Now!

Your company’s actions and communication during the Covid-19 crisis will demonstrate to people whether your relationships with them are genuine. This is what you should always keep in mind.

Due to the corona virus and the current situation, people are fundamentally unsettled and have lots of questions like - Is the grocery nearby open after 6pm? Is there a delay in my product delivery? How hygenic are the products I’m buying?

It is important that you as a company don't panic and that you develop your own corporate communication strategy. Answering questions that arise from your customers, informing them about all changes in your company and telling them how you deal with this new situation can solve short-term problems, but also bond your relationship on a long run.

Why should you focus on corporate communication?

The situation regarding the corona virus pandemic changes almost every hour. New rules, new regulations, changing data etc., and because of this uncertainty people are becoming more curious and more questions are coming up. As people spend more time at home their search behavior is changing too, and with search queries about COVID-19 so immense that it’s being designated the “biggest trend in Google search history” it doesn’t come as a surprise that they are researching, reading and watching more and are constantly online. There is literally a flood of information available right now.

Giving the right answer at the right moment can probably be life-saving for your customers, for example giving them the information ‘where to buy toilet paper’. Even if you cannot answer all their questions, showing them that you are there and you really care about them, can help for retention and a better relationship.

It’s totally understandable If public life comes to a standstill, sales come under massive pressure and every cent saved on advertising might be a win. This is understandable, but dangerous:

Especially now, a complete communication stop is disastrous. Here are a few aspects you can do as a company.

What should you inform your customers about?

Opening hours

If you have a physical location and you are closing your shop or company, or you have changed working and opening hours, your customers should definitely be informed about this. If you are closed completely promote your online shop as an alternative

Tip: See tips below in the Ecommerce section

Changed delivery times

If you are dependent on deliveries from abroad and this increases your delivery time, you should inform your customers about this. On the other hand, if you are producing locally, it may be to your advantage to point out and assure that delivery times are met.

Tip: Consider updating your shipping settings in the merchant center as this may be forgotten during that time. You can use shipping attributes including “transit time labels” or “min/max handling time” which lets customers know that certain product categories could have longer delivery times. 

Sold out products

If your products are sold out, you should tell this at some point.

Will there be new supplies? If so, when? Or is there a bottleneck in your delivery? You can also focus on other products as alternatives and inform your customers about the changing product line.

Tip: You can add a ‘notify me’ feature or show a similar products section on your product pages to keep your clients engaged 

Change in service or product offer

In this period a shift in the demand for your products and services can happen. Try to adapt to these changes as much as possible, but don’t forget to inform your clients about these business changes. I see more and more local businesses in my neighborhood applying this strategy. For example a nearby cafe has opened a market section, where it sells soaps, toilet paper and wipes as the demand for these products is high at the moment. Or taxi companies work for groceries and restaurants to support their increased demand for home delivery.

Effective Communication and Marketing Strategies

Your inbox might be full of “a message from our CEO” emails from all sorts of brands most of whom you wouldn’t have a clue, or care who their CEO is, you just maybe bought their products or used their services once.

Don’t let your CEO or compliance take over your customer communication. Now more than ever the public needs and cares about human, simple and clear communications!

Think about your customer when you’re writing these emails, but will they actually understand all the big words you might be using? Find ways to stay in contact that feel genuine and empathetic (not self-interested).

Here are some tips for effective communication and marketing strategies that will have an impact. Actions that you should take now, if you haven’t already.

Your Homepage

If users are currently visiting your website, they are either looking for something they really need at that moment or they come to you because they need relevant information about you as a company.

Your website is the first place you should update. Make sure that contact forms are activated and working, email addresses and phone numbers are correct and that your customers have the possibility to contact you directly any time.

Consider creating a custom and dedicated COVID-19 landing page on your website. Try to make it easy for your customers to get the information they now need that includes all updates and changes about your business. For example: How are your company’s hygienic conditions, how do you deal with the current situation, what do you do differently during that time, do you engage in some social responsibility or charity projects etc.

Tip: Collect your customers questions and create an FAQ page. This can be highly helpful for your users, but can also relieve workload on the customer support side, too.

Google My Business

Google is a positive example of how up-to-date corporate communications can look. Businesses registered with Google My Business receive emails indicating that any changes in opening hours, telephone numbers and the like can be updated. This is especially crucial for local businesses as these small local businesses are affected most. We highly recommend updating your business hours and other information. If your business is temporarily closed, Google will show this in its listings. And also if your business is closed, but you still do home delivery for example, this is something you definitely should promote here. The "Posts" function gives you a great opportunity to share news, updates and comments on the current situation.

Important (Update: 25th March 2020):

GMB is updating its service and the features almost every day now. Here is a list of the latest updates you should follow and apply if relevant:

  • Google released guidance about COVID-19 communication. Follow this guide as it’s being updated almost daily.
  • You can now mark your business as temporarily closed if it’s affected by the lockdown. You can then disable this option anytime when your business is open again.
  • The Google team is taking steps to protect their team members and reducing the need for people to be at their offices. This means that newly created listings and their verifications may see some delay in approval time. But critical health-related businesses will be prioritized.
  • Review functionality has been disabled. People can still write a review and submit it, however it will not be posted publicly. For you as a business owner currently the ability to respond to reviews is unavailable, too.
  • Questions & Answers option has been removed. Any Q&As on your profile will no longer be visible and it’s also not possible to submit new questions and answers.

Social Media

Social distancing is regulated now in almost every country to stop the spread of the virus. This is why people are currently increasingly using social media platforms and messenger services to communicate with each other and to get the latest information possible. As some people have more time than ever consuming content on social media is increasing.

As a company you should definitely be more active here, inform about changes and answer customer questions. But also plan a different product or service communication in order to get peoples attraction and try to be different than your competitors. In addition, creative approaches can now also help to deal with the situation.

Tip: Did you know that Quora can be a great platform for you to answer related questions and concerns? Also using online community platforms like Reddit where you take part in discussions, share your own news and comments can help you and your target group to get relevant and useful information.

Ecommerce

Sales are falling off in all directions. In e-commerce, the opposite can be observed in some cases, maybe there are product categories that work better or worse. Therefore check your GA product performance data and try to find out if some of your products are now selling more than before. Try to promote these products as much as you can and keep advertising for those product lines with full steam. Because now it is a matter of keeping sales and turnover as high as possible. Pure ROAS strategies, which make profitability the top priority, are hardly to sustain nowadays.

Tip: SEO for UX can help increase conversion rates. For example adding a sort by price category to ecomm navigation and filters can help users sorting the price they can currently afford.

Strengthen your brand

In downtimes like this, think about your brand communication and put more emphasis on your company mission and values. What can you do as a company to support people in need? How can you contribute to improve the current situation in general? Can you do something non-profit for your employees and clients?

Big companies are already giving away free stuff: Google offers free hangout premium features, Sky broadcasts premium content on Free TV, LinkedIn makes home office courses freely available - and even PornHub was in the news because it's giving away premium upgrades in quarantine areas in Italy. These companies will be remembered and their communication will probably generate interest in their products in the long run.

Of course, not everyone can afford to give away their products, and certainly not small companies. But you can communicate your company's values, for example, and build more trust through transparency.

Content marketing is more important than ever

Currently, significantly more people are at home, some have more time than usual, some more anxious about all what’s happening. Some may read and watch more content than usual looking for information or products that can help during those difficult times.

You can use this situation to at least create good and relevant content and build trust with your customers and your users. Put yourself in the position of the customers and think about what could be relevant for them?

Many people also use the time of quarantine for self-education. Do you have something they can use for their learning? Produce educational content, tipps, best practices, basic or advanced learning material etc. Whitepapers, online webinars or guides could be done. For B2B companies for example, all the things you normally do at trade fairs can also be done digitally.

Overall, the same rules apply to content marketing as always: don't write just for the sake of writing and always try to offer the user added value. But currently you have to pay more attention to the tone of voice in which you write - stay sensitive and empathetic to the worries and fears of your users so that you don't annoy anyone.

Stay calm and focus!

Panic does not help anyone, not people nor companies. Nobody knows what the future will look like. Take a deep breath, try to adapt to the current situation and do the best you can do.

To be honest, how can customers now get in touch with your company than doing this online? If you can manage the customer support now and do the right communication, this will be an advantage for you in the long term.

Good luck & stay healthy!

Halide Ebcinoğlu
27 Mar 2020

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