Blog / Businesses Need to Consider Post-pandemic Messaging Carefully
While many businesses are dark along small-town main streets across the country right now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as federal and state governments begin discussions about how to reopen our economy.
It’s a big challenge, not only for governments but also for businesses. Researchers believe that we will feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for months if not years to come, and most also believe that the stress of the pandemic may have already changed our psyche irreversibly. How a business re-emerges into this altered marketplace could well determine their overall success.
There is no question that the pandemic has caused a heightened sense of fear in consumers. The run on toilet paper and hand sanitizer shows that. People begin hoarding supplies to try and protect themselves from the unknown—to be prepared. Staying in their homes with the 24-hour news cycle and ticker tape of the latest cases and deaths exacerbates the situation. Even after the current restrictions are relaxed, it will take time to pull ourselves out of the protective state we’ve developed.
Author and consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow noted in recent media interviews that in times of stress and anxiety, consumers are hypervigilant.
“Everybody is going through the decision-making process with another layer of emotionality,” she noted in an interview with CO, a publication by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “They’re more irrational than ever before.”
This mindset won’t just end because businesses are reopening. How we talk to consumers is more critical than ever. Below are a few tips on developing messaging in the post-pandemic market.
Don’t make light of the situation
While it is true people are frustrated with the new limitations in their life, making light of the situation in your marketing messages can easily backfire.
In a recent AdAge podcast, Yarrow noted that in this time of amplified stress, people are angry and frightened and may be looking for scapegoats.
“I think companies really have to get it right right now—by not making any mistakes first and foremost,” says Yarrow. “And then, secondly, by approaching their relationship with their consumers in a really, really careful way.”
It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to commiserate with consumers—especially since the pandemic has been so hard on businesses. But that isn’t the right approach to reach sensitive consumers at this time. Consumers are focused on their own concerns, fears, and security. Your messaging should focus on what you can do or are doing to make their life easier, safer, or more enjoyable. In a nutshell, don’t talk about your business or your needs, but focus your marketing message on your consumers’ needs.
In a nutshell, don’t talk about your business or your needs, but focus your marketing message on your consumers’ needs.
Highlight your community involvement
A business’ position towards social responsibility also plays a key role in developing trust and building relationships with consumers. What steps are you taking to help your community at this critical time? Rather than focusing on how your business alone can meet consumers’ needs, show how your business is being a good civic partner and creating a safer, stronger community for all. Are you donating products or services? Are you supporting local vendors and suppliers? Are you limiting or extending your business hours to better accommodate a safer experience? Even small steps can be celebrated if they help identify you as a partner in building a safer environment.
“When people feel wounded and fearful, we very naturally look for allies,” says Yarrow. “For the businesses that look warm and generous and caring during this crisis, there’s truly an opportunity to have longer-term, deeper relationships with consumers.”
For opportunities to get involved in our local Yakima Valley community, check out some of our great non-profit partners:
Learn more about other local non-profit partners on our website.
Check out these articles for more information about consumer psychology around the novel coronavirus.