Coronavirus & Marketing: What the f&@k do we do next?

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Josh

Well, bloody hell.

I think that’s the only way I can summarise what’s been going on across the UK in the last week or so.

As a copywriter, I should probably be able to whip up some inspiring words that will perfectly outline what the coronavirus pandemic has caused so far, as well as mustering up a kind of solution. Even if it was complete rubbish, it would at least sound good.

But no. I can honestly say that I am genuinely lost for words about what is going on.

I could easily sit here and reel off loads of statistics about how coronavirus has impacted the UK over the last few days and how it will continue to do so. But really, what is the point? Everything you need to know is widely available from official sources, and I’d rather not say anything at all that could contribute to the widespread cesspool of panic that we currently live in. I also don’t want to go off-topic.

I want to talk about marketing, and more specifically what us, as marketers, need to be doing in the face of a progressively uncertain future.

We are #InThisTogether

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Let’s not beat around the bush here – all of us are going to be affected by coronavirus in one way or another. This is all the more reason to stick together and make sure we act instead of panic.

Whether you manage campaigns for a long list of clients, you run your own business, or you’re even overseeing the biggest project of your career to date, you have a responsibility as a marketer to continue to do your job.

Even sending messages of support and communicating facts clearly and honestly will help to ease tensions and panic if nothing else. The time is now for businesses to reap the benefits of their marketing investments with a clear plan of action.

So whatever it is you specialise in, and whoever it is that needs your support, you need to do your utmost to come up with solutions. After all, if you can’t find a way to connect a business to consumers during the worst of times, then why should you be paid to do it at the best of times?

Don’t be first; be right

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Despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic is still in its early stages, we’ve managed to see some almighty wobblers. Yes, Richard Branson, I am very VERY much looking at you.

If you haven’t already read, Virgin Atlantic have asked their 8,500 staff members to take eight-weeks unpaid leave in light of the significant damage that the coronavirus pandemic is set to incur on the travel industry worldwide. No, seriously, eight-weeks.

At best, it’s a short-term PR disaster. At worst, which is what it’s being taken for, it is another exploitation of thousands of ordinary working people by a man who would lose less than 1% of his net worth if he paid the wages himself.

For context, this is a man who once said: “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”. I mean, seriously, you couldn’t make this sh*t up!

The key message here is not to panic. I’m not saying that difficult decisions and changes won’t have to be made, because they will. I’m saying that it’s better to take a step back, think, and make the right choices instead of panicking and doing something quickly because that’s what everyone else appears to be doing, something which potentially can’t be undone.

Stop, drop and roll back on everything you know

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If marketing was smooth and seamless, then everyone would have made millions by now. It’s the unpredictable nature of the industry that drives us all forward, and it’s the ability to be agile and adaptive that separates the real winners from the part-timers.

We need to be realistic with our priorities and goals in the coming months. Forget your typical processes and ways of marketing for the meantime. If it isn’t going to work in the current climate, then it needs to be changed, delayed or scrapped.

As marketers, we have a responsibility to relay and promote key messages to a public audience, and now so more than ever is the time to do this. Even if you need to break away from your 9-5 cycle and design that poster at 3am, or write that copy during Coronation Street… just do it! If you put the needs of your clients or your business first now, then you WILL reap the benefits in the long run. If you don’t look after them, they may not be here to tell the tale when this has all blown over.

In the worst times, we can be reminded of businesses that have got this right. Back during WWII, when rations became prevalent throughout the country, companies like M&S and Tesco campaigned for fair rations throughout the effort, ultimately aiding the production of food, clothes and other essentials to go to even the poorest in society.

I’m not comparing the coronavirus pandemic to World War II. I am, however, stating that using the lowest of periods to do some good in the world can and will pay off both morally and commercially. Something to remember, marketers.

To summarise…

For someone who said they were lost for words at the beginning of this, I’ve managed to go on for a bit, haven’t I? So, if there’s one thing you should take from this blog as a marketer, it’s to focus your energy on doing good.

While all of the things I have mentioned are important, I also understand that the marketing industry can be incredibly demanding on your mental health, even more so in the midst of a pandemic. Always make sure to give yourself some slack, take regular breaks and allow for some patience. It is perfectly natural to feel anxious in this situation.

If you’re sitting there today, working from home on your laptop, supping on your ninth brew with Loose Women on the telly in the background, then just make sure that you’re using your skills as best you can. In a world that’s currently ravaged by fear, let’s make sure that marketing doesn’t become part of the problem.

In fact, let’s make it contribute to the solution.

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