With The Health Crisis, Should You Suspend Your Marketing?

The last week has been like something out of a movie. We are certainly living in uncertain times right now. Like many of you, I’ve been wondering what’s next. 

In December, when I was planning for 2020, part of that process was a SWOT analysis. I didn’t have a pandemic as part of the possible threats for the year. It never really entered my mind. Recession, yes. Pandemic, no. 

It felt necessary to stop the articles I’ve been writing about each area of GSOT (goals, strategy, objectives, and tactics) to address the elephant in the room. 

It’s anybody’s guess how everything is going to play out for the next few months let alone the rest of the year. If you’re running a business it’s more than a little disconcerting. In fact, everything is disconcerting. 

Normally, March Madness would be a huge story playing out. The baseball season would be coming up. The NBA would be coming down to the end of the season and the playoffs would be starting. I never knew how much sports was a part of my life until it just disappeared.

Normally you could go to the store, a restaurant, to the movies, or hang out with friends without giving it a second thought. 

Normal is gone for now. Depending on the type of organization you work for, that has some potentially serious consequences and leaves a host of questions. 

One of those questions is likely along the lines of what should be done with your marketing and public relations efforts. 

To Continue…or Not….

It’s probably no surprise that most of the people I follow on Twitter are marketing and/or public relations people. I’m also in more than one group that focuses on these topics. 

There are many questions amongst marketers and communicators about what we should do. Some say it should be business as usual. Others say to reign in everything in and just focus on content. Social media marketing can come off as tone deaf…to some. Others don’t have an issue with it. 

What to do? Should you suspend all marketing and public relations activities? 

During the recession in 2001, I worked for a semiconductor company that decided to continue investing in the business. The rationale was when the recession ended we would be a generation ahead of our competitors. 

I haven’t been with the company for 13 years but I can tell you their primary competitor has been a generation behind for nearly 20 years. The plan worked really well. 

That’s certainly a potential argument to stay the course but there is a reason to ignore that advice. 

Business as usual could come off as disconnected. We are in a health crisis. The economy has slowed dramatically because of it. There is uncertainty. People are worried but believe it or not, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t listening. 

If you follow this blog at all, you know that I talk quite a bit about the PESO model, created by the often imitated but never duplicated Gini Dietrich at Spin Sucks, so let’s look at things through the lens of PESO. If you have forgotten, PESO is: 

  • Paid Media
  • Earned Media
  • Share Media
  • Owned Media

Let’s go through them one by one. 

Paid Media

Paid media is digital ads. We are talking about ads that are on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. It also includes ads run on search engines like Google and Bing. You could also be running display ads that pop up when you visit a web site or even native ads

Should you continue to run these ads? 

I’ll preface my answer by saying that this is assuming you have the budget to continue running ads. 

You definitely need to continue to run ads on search engines. Why? Because these ads are tied to keywords. People won’t see them unless they search with the keywords you have created. If they are searching they are showing intent and the ads won’t feel intrusive. It’s the kind of information they are already searching for.

Social media ads become a little more tricky. It really depends on the type of service or product that you offer. 

If you are in the tourism business, it may not be the best idea. If you sell software that helps companies connect to employees, there could be some interest. It could also be good for healthcare and financial services. 

If you continue to run ads be careful. Make sure that you’re not coming off as tone-deaf. The last thing you want your ad to do is to chase away customers because they feel you aren’t connected to what is happening. 

I’d offer the same advice for those who are running display or native ads. 

Earned Media

Earned Media is better known as media relations which is the act of placing articles in the media such as newspapers, television, and blogs. Influencer relation and link building also fall under earned. 

Link building, which is getting links that point back at your website, shouldn’t stop. In fact, this is a good time to focus on building links. I’m not talking about buying links (which is always a bad idea IMHO). I’m talking about guest blogging, reworking a blog post into something you can pitch elsewhere, or even being a guest on a podcast. 

Depending on what it is, media relations could still provide some value. Again, be careful of what you are pitching. It needs to make sense for the media outlet that’s being pitched.

The same would ring true for influencer relations. Certain influencer relations could be worth it depending on what it is your trying to sell. 

Shared Media

Shared media is what most people think of as social media. This area is versatile because you can do many things with it. You can promote content from your site, company news, and events. Be mindful of what you are sharing and the message. 

Also, be mindful of the type of material that is going to be falling around it. I’ve seen some posts on social that really don’t look very tactful when everything else is about COVID-19. You have zero control over what other people might be posting or what is showing up in their feeds so think about how it might look.

Shared media can also be used to build relationships. I see many people posting just because they want to talk or vent. Being compassionate and empathetic is always a good thing but is even better now. Word to the wise, don’t fake it. It will be obvious.

Owned Media

Owned media is where you own the content and the channel. There are really two things you own: your website and your email list. 

Now is a good time to invest in the content on your website. Regardless of the situation, there will always be people looking for information. Why shouldn’t you be the one to provide it? It helps build your brand and reputation. 

Let’s be clear, I’m not telling you to create content for the sake of creating content. It still has to make sense and be useful to your audience and you need to practice search engine optimization but this is a great opportunity to create the kind content that your audience values. 

Content doesn’t have to be new. You can take what you have and repurpose it by turning it into an infographic, a video series, a podcast, or an ebook.

Don’t forget about your email list. The majority of people who come to your website are likely cold leads. They have to be warmed up before you can sell them. People on your email list are already warm. 

They are on your list because they valued something you created. It could be the blog articles on your site or a resource you offered in exchange for their email address. They have shown they value you so don’t forget about them. They are the people that are most likely to purchase from you.

If you’re sending out a newsletter (you should be sending out a newsletter) be mindful of the content. You shouldn’t use it as another sales tool. Like the content on your website, it can build trust and authority. It should be helpful but it can also inspire.

I’m subscribed to Ann Handley’s newsletter and I could hardly wait for it to arrive this week. Ann knows how to write an amazing newsletter that is helpful but also inspires me. I could hardly wait to get it this week because I knew it would help feel better at a time where I’m feeling uncertain about the world. 

Be Mindful

You probably noticed the theme throughout this post. Be mindful. You should always be mindful but in these times, be extra mindful. 

Times are tough enough as it is. You don’t want any marketing or public relations that you are continuing to act as a warning sign to stay away from you. 

If you need a soundboard, contact us. We’re here to help.  

Next week, in terms of the blog I’m going back to business as usual. At least that’s the plan. Life is very fluid at the moment. In the meantime, I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Shane Carpenter
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