Coming Up With Something To Say For COVID-19

blue search box with the words "explore what the world is searching" above a search barIn PA, we are marking milestones none of us ever could have anticipated. We are a month past Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home orders. We are two weeks past the federal stimulus package passing in Congress. We are four months into watching the economy transform as a result of COVID-19.

In the beginning, it was a challenge for most businesses to communicate their responses fast enough. It seemed as soon as a statement was out, something COVID-related would develop and render the statement irrelevant. We saw that ourselves at Scheffey: we had just published an article about keeping our offices open when our policy abruptly changed to Work From Home as a result of Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home order.

Now, however, we’re a little further along, and communication needs have changed. While we continue to tick past unexpected milestones, your audience is taking to the internet looking for answers. (And entertainment. And connection. And ideas.) But knowing what to say to them can sometimes be a challenge. When do you talk about how your company is doing in the face of the crisis? When should you offer heartfelt encouragement to those following your brand? When should you provide an update about your services?

Coming up with the right thing to say to your audience is more challenging when the stakes feel this high. Scheffey has partnered with many of our clients to collaboratively develop strategies for how to maintain a dialogue with their audiences. (If there’s one thing we’ve learned from past recessions, it’s that staying in contact with your customers and prospects is vital!) The best communication strategies come from analyzing each company’s specific environment, but we can also recommend a couple of resources for finding communication ideas that will be relevant to your clients.

1. Look to Your Sales and Customer Service Representatives

The people on your “front lines” will be your best source of ideas for content your audience is asking for. They will be fielding questions from your current customers regarding your operations, and they also will be the first to hear any complaints, praises, or feedback. Use content to respond to what you are hearing. For example, if you have a surge of complaints about a service that has been impacted by COVID-19 limitations, use your content platforms to explain the limitations and to set expectations for your customers. If clients have expressed gratitude over your company’s ability to continue operations, flip that around and thank your customers on social media for their continued support.

2. Analyze Google Trends

While your internal team can tell you the topics most relevant to your specific audience, there are other ways to “hear” the questions people are asking in relation to your industry or to COVID-19. Google Trends is a tool hosted by Google that analyzes the popularity of queries typed into Google Search. In other words, you can see how often a search term or topic is typed into Google during a certain time frame. This becomes useful if you want to understand your audience’s top concerns and interests right now. It does take a little work, however, to figure out how to relate these trends to your brand in an organic way.

For example, the phrase “Books to read during quarantine” jumped 2,650% in popularity in the past month in the U.S. For a local library that is currently closed but wants to keep reaching patrons, this is a prime opportunity to create a list of favorite books to read during quarantine, and post it to your blog and social channels.

Google Trends also shows that people are looking for ways to express gratitude. During the week of April 21-27, 2019 the term “thank you signs” was searched for once. This year, the week of April 5-11, 2020, “thank you signs” was searched for 100 times. All of us can say “thank you” to others for their contributions during this unprecedented time. Consider vocalizing your thanks with a heartfelt message or by taking action to support some of your community’s heroes, such as healthcare workers, police and fire professionals, or public transport personnel.

There was also a jump in searches for “How to support small business” and “How to support local business.” People are aware of the immediate impact COVID-19 has had on their local businesses, and they appear keen to help. If your company has pivoted to continue operations but requires the community to take action, clearly and consistently communicate what you need them to do. You might be surprised how many customers make extra effort to continue to support your location.

3. Partner with a PR and Communication Professional

Creating meaningful communications takes time and strategy. While the circumstances around COVID-19 and the marketplace’s response keeps changing, your brand’s strategy for response needs to remain constant. Developing a way to position your brand both for the current crisis and for a phased re-opening will help your business emerge from the experience stronger. By partnering with a PR professional, such as Hope Graby or Cheryl Irwin-Bass, you can benefit from decades of experience in creating meaningful touchpoints to meet your customers where they are. Hope and Cheryl can help you determine what your clients and customers need to hear from you today to feel confident in your brand. Together you can start to craft messaging that will prepare you for the day when businesses re-open, keeping you ahead of the wave of companies trying to define the new normal.

Keep Communicating

If there is one thing we would NEVER recommend, it is to create content just for the sake of having content. There is no need to manufacture something to say. Instead, look for ways to offer genuine and helpful content to your audience to keep your brand in their minds. Because at some point, the milestone we pass will be the end of the pandemic. We want to help our clients have all of their ducks in a row so when that milestone hits, they’re already surging forward to the next one: normalcy.