In the middle of week two of our Marketing for manufacturers series, Jack Mallen-Cooper explains some of the dos and don’ts of Covid-19-era communications.
We’re all a bit sick of hearing about Covid aren’t we?
The temptation, as a manufacturer, may be to avoid sending out communications during this time, because you think people are already overwhelmed, and you may feel uncertain about how new changes will affect your own operations. But staying silent could be a mistake.
Now is an ideal time to build trust and credibility, so that when you hop on the next video call, or (eventually) walk in the door, the customer knows you’re the real deal before you even start to speak.
In our company’s local and global experience – extending for more than 25 years across a diverse base of B2B industries – times of change are times of opportunity.
The typical channels of communication manufacturers should be utilising are media (print and online), direct email/direct communication, social media (particularly LinkedIn for B2B companies) and through their own website.
To help manufacturers get it right, here are some of the dos and don’ts of Covid communication.
DO: Keep your customers updated and informed about relevant changes to your business. Have your hours changed? Are you working from home? Have you temporarily stopped trading, but plan to pick back up on a particular date? How should customers (and potential new customers) reach you in these changed times?
These are all essential bits of information to share via direct email, social media and your website – they will reinforce your relationship with your customer base. And, in the event that you told customers one thing, and a new rule has made you have to change things again, this is great news, from a brand awareness perspective. You have a very real, relevant reason to communicate once more, and put your brand in front of your audience again.
DO: Let others know how you can help them. If your business in some way helps people as we experience the pandemic – let them know. Perhaps you’ve re-tooled to supply hand sanitiser, masks or other PPE. Perhaps you can help make signage or sanitiser holders for other businesses looking to adapt to operating through lockdowns and rule changes. It’s never a bad idea to let people know you are capable of helping, and this message is appropriate for all communication channels, including media.
DO: Focus on your benefits/ DON’T: point out your competitors’ shortcomings. As tempting as it may be, when you see a competitor falling short, and you know you’re doing something better, don’t go on the offensive. Stick to asserting your positives and showcasing your benefits – this positivity will stay with your brand. If you speak negatively of others (even if it is totally accurate), the negativity will stay with your brand, too. (Note: this is advisable all the time, but is particularly true during the pandemic.)
DON’T: Use Covid as an excuse to drive sales. This is often called “ambulance chasing” (derived from lawyers who would show up to accident sites to solicit new clients), and it can reflect poorly on your business. It’s one thing to say you’re available to help, but to try to push sales due to the pandemic may come across as exploitative, and it can affect your business’ reputation.
As a fictional example, don’t start a direct email communication with “Hundreds die of Covid because they didn’t use our super product. But you don’t have to die like they did… buy from us today.” This is a rather extreme example, but it illustrates how off-putting it is when a company uses a crisis to try to frighten their audience into sales.
If you’ve got a product that fights back against Covid, fantastic! Highlight only the benefits, and focus on facts and data to back up your claims, rather than using sensational headlines to grab people’s attention.
DON’T: Go totally quiet. As much as people may be overloaded with information – the right message, to the right audience at the right time, will always be worthwhile. If you simply stop talking to your audience, they may think you’re no longer operating, and they may not make enquiries when Covid restrictions ease. Each time you provide a useful message, it has your brand attached to it, and people will remember this when conditions improve.
As a final word of advice, put yourself in the recipient’s chair. You probably receive lots of communication from other companies already. What do you like? What makes you think positively about a business, and what makes you turn away?
Use this information to focus your own communication and make it better serve your audience. The more you’re genuinely trying to provide them with value, the more effective your messaging will be, which will ultimately improve your own brand awareness and affinity.
Jack Mallen-Cooper is a Senior Consultant at Whyte Public Relations.
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