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3 Tips for Avoiding Tonedeaf Marketing in the COVID-19 Economy

By: Ashleigh Warren, Founder, So Social

July 27, 2020

Over the past few months, I have been observing brands and thought leaders’ responses to the COVID-19 outbreak and seeing a variety of results—good, bad and ugly. As a marketer and owner of a social media agency, I have had many conversations about what it means to be a thought leader on social media during this uncertain time.

How do marketers continue to do their jobs, while also communicating empathy and understanding around current circumstances?

Here are a few tips we have kept front of mind in order to maximize returns while steering clear of tonedeaf content.

Look at every angle. Don’t just think like a marketer; think like a human being. Try to understand the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that your customers are experiencing. Before sending a tweet or posting an ad, consider how you would personally feel if you were seeing this message for the first time. Then, try to look outside your personal lens of understanding and imagine how others might view it.

Don’t ignore the elephant in the room. With many people losing their jobs or facing financial uncertainty, asking people to spend money they don’t have could well appear tone-deaf. What discount or additional benefit can you offer to help people afford this service? How is your brand giving back and acknowledging the stresses that come with quarantine? It is impossible to pretend that there isn’t a global crisis occurring. So, don’t.

Be persistent. Marketing authentically doesn’t mean you have to pull back your marketing efforts entirely. Many of the brands and influencers I represent are seeing over a 6x return during the pandemic, perhaps most surprisingly, small businesses that have been hit the hardest financially. With large brands pulling back their massive advertising budgets, CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) are much cheaper, creating space for small businesses to better compete in online commerce and reach new audiences. As an agency, a business association or an influencer, it is important to encourage clients running small businesses not to give up hope. There are still creative ways to reach people empathetically and effectively during this difficult time.

Ashleigh Warren is the founder of So Social, a social media and email marketing agency that serves small businesses, nonprofits and startups based in St. Louis, MO.

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