The Best Marketing & Communications Strategies to Reach Your Audiences During Uncertain Times

We are experiencing a significant pivot in the way business works.

No doubt about it, we are living in unusual times. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is significant and transformative.

It has radically transformed our social and economic fabric. And in the coming years, it will be viewed as a significant pivot point in the way business works. It’s clear that what lies ahead of us will not be business as usual.

As a business owner, you are looking for ways to keep your business afloat with consumers shifting budget priorities, adjusting media consumption and altering their buying behaviors.

The central challenge has become how to weather the pandemic and emerge even stronger when it subsides.

Insight into today’s marketplace.

Understanding what’s happening in the marketplace is critical to transforming challenges into opportunities.

Even during the pandemic, there is considerable advertising and marketing activity taking place. Some advertisers are holding steady, some have stopped, most are changing their messaging, and still others are ramping up to grab market share.

As we might expect, sales in some industries are suffering while others are finding new opportunities. The travel vertical is obviously experiencing major declines. However, industries that are essential to our everyday needs and are supportive of our “new normal” are experiencing significant gains.

Home improvement, hobbies and leisure activities, streaming services, web and technology, food, consumer packaged goods and telecommunications, in many cases are seeing growth.

But no matter what industry, there are steps you can take to maintain your brand presence, support your customers and in some cases gain market share.

Now is the time to pivot and focus on new opportunities.

It is critical to adjust your business strategy to integrate new and innovative ways to find and serve consumers. Think how you can continue to offer services or a modification of services, still provide value, and deliver products and services when and where they’re needed.

Shift to products and services that help people meet challenges and find ways to be helpful to customers in meeting their most basic needs.

Adopt a “solve not sell” attitude. Brands that are still selling are perceived as insensitive to today’s environment.

Have a plan, but make sure it is flexible. Remember no one has all the answers. Do the best you can with the information you have and be ready to make changes as you move forward.

Listen to your customers and pay close attention to how they are feeling and responding to the crisis.

What does “pivoting” look like?

 It can come in many forms and we’ve seen numerous examples recently:

  • A brick and mortar store that is now selling products online and offering home delivery or curb-side pickup.
  • Restaurants doing takeout only. Some even selling and delivering select groceries.
  • An artist hosting a YouTube Live Stream to teach classes.
  • Realtors using virtual walkthroughs of houses for sale or rent.
  • Physicians offering telemedicine to their patients.

Strategies for communicating during the crisis.

  • Be transparent and honest. Forge authentic connections with your customers.
  • Lead with empathy. People seek kindness and positivity right now.
  • Adjust your tone. Be gentle, friendly and helpful.
  • Be conscious of how your message will be received.
  • Avoid “pre-coronavirus” messaging that may seem out of place and inappropriate.
  • Use your brand to educate and support. Customers feel that brands should use their power to educate people on how to protect themselves from the pandemic.

Now is the time to leap-frog the competition.

While you are rolling up your sleeves to keep your business going, it is also a great time to evaluate your position in the marketplace.

Previous recessions teach us that those who refocused their spending rather than reducing it had higher profitability and as a result pulled ahead of their competition when times improved.

Take an honest look at your business and competitors and ask some key questions including:

  • What makes you different from the competition?
  • How are your competitors outpacing you?

If your staff has extra time on their hands, use the next few months to conduct strategic planning including completing a brand audit and competitive analysis.

Review your marketing communications strategies and tools.

You should also use available time to conduct a critical review of your marketing communications tools including your website, online marketing plan, social media efforts, search engine strategies and use of traditional media. Are they effective now and will they be in an unpredictable future?

Prepare your business for after the crisis is over

The pandemic will end. This is a perfect time to retool your organization to come out ahead on the other side of this. With some planning and work now you will be better positioned for success in the future.

Watch the full presentation, sponsored by the Tucson Metro Chamber.

Credits: Thanks to the many brands and members of the ad industry who shared images and data used to create this presentation, including Google, Social Media Today, ComScore, WWD, Clearchannel Outdoor, AdWeek, Forward Influence, Thrive, NYTimes, Forbes, MorningConsult, AdRoll, Think with Google, Harvard Business Review Survey, AMI, Redbubble, 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, TEC Direct Media and others. All images copyright by their respective owners.


Kerry Stratford has 25+ years of strategic marketing and brand creative experience driving brands forward and helping them meet their business goals. She has an extensive knowledge of digital marketing and its power to reach and influence audiences globally. Her award-winning creative has been featured internationally in design and advertising publications, and her leadership skills have been recognized by the American Advertising Federation Tucson, Greater Tucson Leadership and the Arizona Small Business Association. Kerry currently serves on the executive board of the Arizona Small Business Association, American Advertising Federation Tucson Educational Foundation, Local First Arizona and the University of Arizona Alumni Association Governing Board. Kerry holds a bachelor’s degree in Visual Communications from the University of Arizona.

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