COVID-19 and Copywriting Today
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The global pandemic of COVID-19 has set the world aflame with stress. Dramatic changes come every week as the epidemic drags on, leaving copywriters around the world in suspense. The pandemic has changed many things and turned conventions upside down, but how has it affected the copywriting world? Here’s what every copywriter should know, as well as marketing teams more generally.
It’s a Brave New World
While it might seem counterintuitive to call the world we find ourselves in brave, it is when you think about it. Everyone from copywriters to bartenders has found themselves treading dark waters that no one has ever ventured into before. The circumstances we find ourselves in today are unlike those of any other age. Whether you consider yourself courageous or not is arbitrary. If you haven’t crawled under the covers by now, you’re braver than you know.
Don’t Convert, Contribute.
As a copywriter, you’re probably used to pressing for conversions in your work. As unnatural as it may seem, you must resist the temptation to focus on converting customers and using the popular marketing tactics that you’re used to.
A new world requires a new approach, one of contribution. Businesses who have continued to stick to the same old blatantly promotional tactics will upset customers and find themselves in an unfavorable position.
Trying to shove products down your customer’s throats during a global crisis doesn’t just lack class, it also requires foresight. Now is a valuable time to stand out in the minds of your customers. The pandemic has to end sometime, and when it does, you don’t want your customer’s impression of your brand to be a money-hungry parasite that barraged them with promotional content.
What you want is to be on the right side of history, and that means positioning your business as a good Samaritan. Ideally, your business should be remembered not for a catchy jingle, but an extension of kindness as a light in the dark.
Until the pandemic passes, no business should be coarse enough to take money out of their customer’s pockets without giving them something back.
Believe it or not, Burger King has been one of the most forward-thinking companies during the pandemic. They saw what McDonald’s failed to see early on. From the very beginning, Burger King recognized the fact that businesses need to offer their customers a tangible benefit in this dark time. To that effect, the fast-food-chain started offering free kid meals. That one single act sent a crisp, clear message to millions of parents. Burger King understands, at least ostensibly, that parents are struggling to feed their kids as they find themselves unable to work and on a razor-thin budget.
It is worth noting that McDonald’s was late to the party and began shamelessly mimicking Burger King’s shrewd move afterward. Before copying Burger King, McDonald’s reacted to the pandemic by separating the arches on their signs. The separation of the arches was to signify social distancing. As you can imagine, this message did not produce a particularly positive response from customers.
Not only did it irk customers for not providing anything of value to them, but it also served as an unwelcome sort of lecture. In any case, customers responded infinitely more positively to burger King’s approach than to that of their arch enemy’s no pun intended.
Other businesses have achieved the same effect by offering customers items that they need for free in appreciation of their purchases. For example, one company was giving customers free toilet paper with their purchase.
As a copywriter in today’s market, you need to make an effort to find ways to tailor your content around how brands are contributing.
Answering Questions Proactively During the COVID-19 Pandemic with FAQs
The COVID-19 pandemic has everybody asking questions, and they need answers. Savvy firms who were proactive about the coming influx of questions took time to set up thorough and genuinely useful FAQ pages.
If you don’t already have an FAQ page, you need to get on it fast. You need to understand and anticipate your customers’ needs. Think of all of the questions a customer would ask during a time like this and build your FAQ page around those questions.
Due to COVID-19, many customers have been making inquiries on how businesses have been keeping their products and facilities clean.
Be as inclusive as possible when thinking of FAQs and always be straightforward with your answers. Don’t make claims you can’t back up like saying that your products and facility are virus-proof; there is no such thing unless you’re selling hand sanitizer, etc.
You should update your FAQs regularly. Keep them as organized as possible and prioritize them in order of importance.
Develop a Crisis Communication Plan for COVID-19
The news changes every day as we hear more about COVID-19 and how governments are responding to it with regulations. Your business should develop a crisis communication plan and stick to it for the duration of the pandemic.
The first thing you’ll need to do when developing a crisis communication plan is identifying what needs to be communicated to both external and internal stakeholders. You’ll need to decide what to say to employees, customers, and in some cases, your investors.
The effort to make a crisis communication plan for COVID-19 should be well-organized. How information is to be shared within the company should be well-documented. You will also need to designate the individuals best suited for the task to create fact sheets.
Creating and distributing fact sheets will help everything run smoothly and avoid needless confusion.
Make sure that you have proactive protocols in place for certain situations should the crisis escalate. For example, you should provide documentation on how the company plans to handle an outbreak within its facilities. If someone working there falls ill with COVID-19, how will you handle it? You’ll need to replace them, at least temporarily immediately, and have everything they would have touched cleaned as soon as possible.
The key is to develop and maintain proactive damage control. Using our previous example, your crisis communication plan should include documentation on who can act as a replacement for each role in the company. If someone in the company contracts COVID-19, you can’t afford to waste time figuring out who can perform the work they did after the fact, and it should already have been decided. This way, your operations will be more fluid, and you can safely avoid bottle-necks in productivity.
It’s impossible to think of everything that could come up in a crisis, and you don’t have to. As long as you cover most things, your business will perform much better in a crisis. The more organized you are and the more documentation you have on how to handle a disaster, the better off you’ll be.
Watch Your Language
Seriously, copywriters will have to adjust to a new set of etiquette if they want to resonate with customers without upsetting them successfully.
Before the pandemic, copywriters had the freedom to use all kinds of delightfully flashy words without consequence.
Here are some examples:
“Check out our killer rates!”
“Product X is going viral, and it’s positively infectious!”
“Gather round and spread the word!”
Words like gather, spread, infectious, and killer among many more have fallen out of favor as it were since the pandemic. The language that copywriters use has always been important, but now it is indescribably more severe. The words copywriters use today can affect much more than purchasing decisions. They can affect the customer’s mood, which is probably somewhat unstable of late. Anything that pushes them even the slightest bit could either depress them, offend them. Either scenario is, of course, disastrous to any marketing efforts.
Drop the Sense of Urgency
Many copywriters are accustomed to frequently weaving a strong sense of urgency in their work. Typical advertisements and bits of the copy are littered with declarations of need.
Common examples of this include phrases like:
“Act fast! “
“Sign up now before it’s too late!”
First of all, people are already spazzing out enough. They don’t need to be pushed with a false sense of urgency. Most people are going to be more worried about buying food than buying a new bottle of perfume. If you want to stand out and appeal to your customers during the pandemic, you need to use a different tone.
Be Sensitive and Supportive
During the pandemic, copywriters everywhere should adopt a supportive tone. While it’s recommended that you use a supportive tone, you should also remain severe and sensitive. Content that is flippant or imprudent, or insensitive is a recipe for disaster. Speaking of emergency, don’t use that word either!
You should also be as sensitive as you are able in your writing. The world is in pain, and you need to channel that pain if you want to have any chance of resonating with people living through the pandemic. Remember, the customers who read your content could have a loved one ailing with COVID-19; they may even have it themself.
In the early stages of the pandemic, many companies decided not to mention COVID-19 in their content. Initially, this strategy was wise and appropriate, as it helped to inhibit an early panic. More recently, almost every business has been mentioning COVID-19.
No business can afford to ignore COVID-19; they can’t afford to say or do the wrong thing either. This is a time that customers will remember for years to come. If you get this right and produce the right kind of copy during this time, it’ll pay off big. Even if all you do is stay above water, you’ll be doing much better than countless others who sunk completely. When it comes to copywriting today, don’t be greedy, be thankful.
Get it Right
When producing content as a copywriter, you need to be extra selective with the sources you use. The price of using inferior references can be ruinous as people are much more hostile to fake news and the like than they already were before.
Whatever you do, make sure that your sources are reliable when it comes to anything regarding COVID-19. Stick to causes like the CDC etc.
Paint Glimmers of Hope but Don’t Go Too Far
When writing for a brand or business today, you should make an effort to paint little glimmers of hope. Keep in mind, however, you should avoid going too far with it, never say anything that could be taken as false hope.
This is another reason why it’s imperative that you only use trustworthy and authoritative sources when making any claims concerning COVID-19 and the pandemic. The key is to find the sweet spot between hope and folly. You’ll want to come off as positive, but not at the risk of sounding like a fool, or even worse, disingenuous.
Write for the Future
The pandemic has us all flustered, but it’s essential to stay grounded. That may sound easier said than done because it is, but you still have to try. Normalcy will return, and you share a special if perhaps undesired responsibility to put forth your best writing and help keep the whole world from going mad.
With that in mind, you must not only write for today but also for the future as well. Consider this example; you are writing for a gym that would generally be open before all of this dreadful virus business, thus making it impossible for customers to join or attend in the immediate future. You can urge customers to learn more about the gym to buy time and build interest that will pay off when the facility is finally able to reopen.
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In this difficult time, a little help can go a long way, let AlchemyLeads guide you through the storm, brighter times are ahead, let’s reach them together.