April 21, 2020

A Guide to Communication During COVID-19

No business or brand is immune to the effects of COVID-19. In this guide, Like Digital lay down some simple dos and don’ts on how to communicate during the pandemic.

Be sensitive and responsible

This is an extraordinary global humanitarian situation, and not a marketing opportunity to capitalise on.


  • Avoid placing an emphasis on the high-value of luxury goods. Smaller, more affordable “everyday” luxury items could be prioritised.
  • Do not be conversion driven, and avoid overtly sales-driven CTAs on all channels.
  • Avoid encouraging the consumption of alcohol.
  • Remember it is difficult for consumers to access their usual food groups.
  • Avoid the topic of travel. If you do mention it, use a disclaimer alongside it.

Don’t be scared to communicate

Winning a share of voice at this difficult time will support your brand in its long-term recovery plan, and can allow for deeper connections with your audience.

  • Be open to new ways of connecting, such as new channels or personal messaging.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your audience what kind of content they would like from you.
  • Content calendars may be scaled back, but should not dry up.

Be clear on sales and operational messages

Businesses are undoubtedly concerned with sales, so ensure clear communication about your capabilities.

  • Don’t promise what you cannot deliver. Be honest and transparent.
  • Consider spinning inbound queries back into content to keep users up to date.
  • Update all your channels, eg new opening hours on Google, add a banner onto your website if you’re facing disruptions.
  • If your logistics and warehouses remain open, consider offering free delivery.

Get growth planning, and know when to nurture

Use your family as a lens to judge sales opportunities: “Would I be happy with my family doing this right now?” If not, this means the service or product should be nurtured.

  • Ensure your staff understand the value of nurturing customers.
  • Allow wishlist functionality on your website or app.
  • China seems to be ahead of the curve. Consider launching in China to capitalise in this market and diversify your customer base.

Be authentic and demonstrate your values

Respond authentically based on your brand values. Avoid expressing any values without demonstrating action.

  • Communicate a practical message on site closures, and impact on customers and staff safety only once (with updates as and when needed).
  • Retain your tone of voice but consider allowing for heightened empathy and some types of (tasteful) humour.
  • It’s all about context. You could share older content, but this must be contextualised with thoughtful disclaimers that this was created pre COVID-19.
  • Avoid distasteful references such as “CORONA19” discount codes.

Focus on helping customers through the virus

Be cognisant of your customers’ needs at this time, so that you can stay customer-centric.

  • Test your content and communications against WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?” from your customers’ perspective.
  • Consider giving away free content that would previously be gated or paid for.
  • Reframe all planned content to the home environment and its limitations.
  • Recognise “at-home” behaviour, which may pivot between bite-sized and longer-form content.

Use your expertise and your experts

Customers are looking for educational and practical content to replace what they used to get from the outside world.

  • Do an internal exercise to see what talent or expertise exists within your team.
  • Use your brand experts or ambassadors front and centre in your content.
  • Think of creative ways to deliver your expertise within the home context.

Be personal – go live and build engagement

Your aim is to connect, to create a two-way dialogue at a time where people feel isolated, and to bring your product or service into a home setting.

  • Use live Q&As with experts.
  • Utilise Instagram Live and IG TV.
  • Leverage Instagram functionality, such as “quiz” stickers to test audience engagement or “poll” stickers to gather opinions.
  • Run YouTube Live sessions.
  • Deliver more direct-to-camera content.

Be global

Be considerate that not all parts of the world are at the same stage of this pandemic or share the same cultural context.

  • Adjust content and messaging according to the market – this means more nuanced segmentation and audience targeting.
  • If in doubt, use the most severely affected market to filter content responsibly.

Be timely

On a macro level, continuously monitor situations to adapt to changing conditions. On a micro level, consider the timing of your cross-channel content.

  • Run a daily or weekly briefing session with the content team to check plans.
  • Ideate a few options or variations when planning content pieces.
  • Daily schedules and routines have changed. Do some research and testing to understand your audience’s new habits.

Consider new channels and be creative

As your customers spend their time at home, digital socialising is on the increase. How can you support their new routines?

  • Ensure assets are optimised for each device and that content is easily shareable.
  • Screen time is increasing and people are digesting more content. Ensure your content is aggregated into one place for ease of access.
  • Music can complement other content. Consider creating Spotify or YouTube playlists.
  • Start that podcast your company has been considering.
  • Utilise YouTube Live to create a more personal connection.
  • TikTok is ideal for people stuck indoors – consider tasteful challenges/education.

Be practical – content planning

We often plan six to 12 months ahead, but now a two to three month content/editorial calendar is key.

  • Create a content runway that is achievable, considering your team is working remotely.
  • Creating three to four pillars you can activate against helps you focus your efforts.
  • Audit existing calendars for relevance and against the above pillars.

A little flex in production standards

Customers will forgive a slightly more “real” approach as they are facing isolation and will not be expecting perfectly-curated content. Consider creating videos on channels such as TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. Stories don’t require big budgets or time investments.

Final thoughts…

  • Be human. Use empathy towards your audiences. We’re all facing this challenge together.
  • Be respectful. Digital fatigue is real, and your audience may want to switch off sometimes.
  • Be helpful. We’re all overwhelmed. Entertainment and education go a long way.
  • Be open. This is new territory. Be open to different messaging, channels, and strategies.

If you would like to speak to one of the Like Digital team for further advice, please contact studio@like.digital.

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