Business leaders around the world are asking themselves a question most of us have never seriously considered: How do I communicate with my customers during a global pandemic?

In uncertain times like these, we are all navigating unfamiliar territory. Protecting the lives of your workers, your customers and the community obviously comes first. But now is not the time for businesses to go silent.

The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually run its course. How soon, nobody knows for sure. In the meantime, it’s up to us all to keep the engine of commerce moving ahead, safely and responsibly. For businesses, keeping lines of communication active is the key to minimizing negative impacts, for now, while positioning our companies for a future when we can begin to restore our lives and our livelihoods to some kind of normalcy.

There is no rulebook for global pandemic marketing. But there are insights that can be gained from past events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, combined with a good measure of marketing best practices and simple common sense.

Reevaluate messages that are planned, running or scheduled

Before you focus on doing the right thing, give some attention to not doing the wrong thing. Campaigns that made sense three weeks ago may be seen as tone-deaf today. Take a second look at your current marketing to make sure the message content and tone are appropriate through the COVID-19 lens.

You don’t have to pull a humorous commercial off the air simply because these are serious times. A little humor can provide much-needed relief, after all, especially if that style is consistent with your brand personality. But, at the same time, avoid messages that could be seen as irresponsible or out of touch. Be sure, especially, to review social media posts that may have been scheduled weeks or months ago.

Promote the good you are doing

Right now, manufacturers across the country are retooling their lines to make hand sanitizer, masks, and other personal protective equipment. Other businesses are establishing new procedures for protecting their employees and customers. People need to know about the good work you’re doing, now more than ever. For service industries such as restaurants and retail stores, it’s critically important to let your customers know about the availability of curbside pick-up and delivery. Be sure to emphasize the safeguards you have in place, such as gloves and mask protocols and employee wellness checks.

Promoting the good things your company is doing to respond to the pandemic can boost employee morale, inspire customer confidence and challenge other businesses to pitch in to the effort.

Focus on action, not sentiment

It can be tempting to broadcast messages of solidarity, compassion or encouragement during times like these. There’s nothing wrong with doing so. Such sentiments can be very moving when they are communicated in a sincere and heartfelt way. 

But it’s better to focus first on action. What actions can your company take to help customers who are, not only facing the very real fear of a deadly pandemic, but also loss of employment, social isolation, homeschooling, childcare and an assortment of other worries?

Even small measures like waiving delivery fees or offering new contactless payment options are appreciated. While it might not be the best time to ramp up sales calls, reaching out to valued customers to check on their well-being can strengthen existing connections and encourage them to feel appreciated and valued.

Reevaluate, as needed

Pandemics, by their very nature, change rapidly and sometimes unexpectedly. Things that made sense yesterday may not tomorrow.

Finding your way right now may not be easy or straight-forward. But if you keep the safety and other important needs of your employees, your customers and your community in mind, we will get through this ordeal and, God willing, emerge even stronger.

Be good.