How to: brand communication on social media during a pandemic

How to: brand communication on social media during a pandemic

It's safe to say that coronavirus is the 'black swan of 2020' (an unforeseen event that carries potentially severe consequences). In times like these, when news happens fast and everything is uncertain, many companies face questions they might not even know how to answer. Put yourself in your clients' and team members' shoes to understand the anxiety when coping with a crisis like this. You will often get it wrong and sometimes get it right, but it's best to be as transparent as you can be.

Article by Camilla Van Grembergen

There's a thing or two we can learn from the change of consumer behavior in China for our own situation. Three platforms are seeing a relative surge in usage, and that's linear content such as radio and TV, social media, and online sales. People spending more time on social media inadvertently means more ways to communicate with your audience. However, people are buying way less stuff than before, except for hand sanitizer and groceries of course. "Now is not the time to focus on selling but rather to focus on keeping your community fixed on your brand", a piece of advice from Chase's CEO Sven De Coninck.

What action are you taking in your business?

First things first: how do you keep yourself and your team motivated? Make sure you have clear guidelines on how to work from home and allow entertainment to seep through. Maybe review your own (social) media consumption and make sure you're not overwhelmed by the amount of screentime you consume. Over at the Chase 'work from home' online office we've introduced some fun games that launched a whole lot of other questions and sparked even more conversation. This really helps to connect the team, almost like it would in an office.

How do you try to influence your public?

Focus on positive ways your brand can create engagement or at a minimum, stay top of mind. Post relevant content whenever possible, and give your followers a chance to connect with you about their questions and concerns. Also, non-COVID-19 related positive stories capture people’s attention, because good things continue to happen, despite the context right now.

At Chase, we felt a big responsibility towards our audience, which is mostly young people. We tried to educate them on staying indoors and keeping their distance, using something that hit close to home. On the Chase Music channels, we created a #StayTheFuckHome and #SaveOurFestivalSummer social campaign. We aren't scared of presenting a future where this carefree summer is taken away from us.

Through another project, HELDER, we reached a much bigger part of the population when it got picked up by VRT NWS. The message we advertised is that tap water is still very much safe to drink and cook with. Therefore preventing people from stocking up on bottled water. Most recently, we lent a hand on social media management for the launch of DIKKE MERCI-box. A way to give something back to all medical staff, in the form of a care package containing two prepared meals, some delicious drinks, and a treat.

Good practices

Twitter saw millions of Tweets and retweets about the virus surface around the globe and they set up a guide book for brands, on how to communicate in times of crisis. Some key advice points are to keep up to date with what's happening, be thoughtful about your tone of voice and anticipate changes in your customer's behavior.

This new ad by Jack Daniel's shows how friends around the world are adapting to a new reality of being apart while trying to stick together. It was made from user-generated footage of real interactions that were filmed, safely from home. The liquor brand's parent company has also promised 1 million dollars to COVID-19 response teams. And the Jack Daniel distillery, among others, started producing hand sanitizer for first responders.

A brand that decided to switch it up is New Balance. They started manufacturing mouth masks and are looking into making other protective gear too, as stated in a message on their website. A more local example is Belgian fashion brands such as Natan, Van de Velde and Xandres who have switched up their production lines to produce protective gear for medical workers.

Bad practices

The Dutch brand RUMAG has been at the center of social media backlash following their controversial mouth masks post. It started out as a simple joke when they posted a photo on Instagram with some mouth masks they designed. But it quickly turned into a very real thing when they announced the masks are for sale on the webshop. Since then, people have mocked RUMAG's non-sensitive approach to the seriousness of the coronavirus threat. Forcing the online platform to take a step back.

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Another bad practice is that of mainstream media widely reporting on empty shelves throughout supermarkets, all using the same handful of images. It makes the problem much worse as it sets people up to stock on supplies that are readily available. A focus on these pictures distorts our perception of what's actually going on.

What do you do with your existing campaigns?

Reassess all of your communication, both content that's already out there and scheduled content. How do your social channels look? Does your content hold up between other corona crisis communication? Adjusting your volume and type of social media content is probably a good idea right now. Since the start of the corona crisis, brands decided to cut up to 60% of all advertising campaigns. But you, as a brand, can't afford to stay silent for two to three months. If you keep communicating with your cliënts and community you won't easily be forgotten.

Photo by Mother London Agency

During the course of the corona outbreak, we saw Hershey pulling campaigns before they even aired and KFC rethinking its 'Finger-Lickin' Good' strategy. Whilst these ads are largely inoffensive they portray the kind of physical contact – hugs, and handshakes -that people have to avoid. Brands are now especially concerned to avoid any kind of 'brand fail' that could result in a consumer boycott.

Of course, there's less attention to go around these days. Nevertheless, don't stop coming up with new creative ideas. Maybe consider investing your time in trust content such as long-form articles, video series, podcasts and how you can bring those to your audience via social media. And above all, stay safe and healthy!

Want to find out what social media management can do for your business? Book a free consultancy session with one of our experts to explore the possibilities for your business.