Marketing for the good, the bad and the ugly

March 12th started in our office like any other day that week, light jokes about the Coronavirus while the news played in the background.  Remarks like, “Is it really this serious?”  Then the news broke that Disneyland decided to shut down its park due to the Coronavirus – DISNEYLAND WAS CLOSED! Ok, this is serious, the happiest place on earth just shut down – now what?

Our team came together to formulate an action plan for our office – if the Central Valley went into quarantine how would we shift our team from an in-office setting to working from home.  Fortunately, technology is on our side and the details were quickly sorted out.  Scheduled video calls every morning – coffee and clothes required…shoes optional. But all joking aside our out-of-office quarantine plan was put into action and by Thursday the 19th, we were in full WFH mode.

We had our M+ action plan but, what about our clients?  The world quickly shifted from socializing in groups as the norm to social distancing as the new norm, as it would seem overnight.  The blog and social media editorial calendars developed in January could not have predicted the mass pandemic that swept through our country in the last two weeks. With everyone quickly turning to social, this was the time to develop action plans for each one of our clients and assess where their place was in the conversation.  All content was reviewed with a critical eye, while the first day of spring usually kicks off the “Picnic with your closes 10 friends” posts, this was now not the time to be promoting gatherings.  Especially, at the risk of being criticized as living under a rock or insensitive (not going to name any names, but you know you saw those posts!)  And if we do not have anything important to say, do we add to the thousands of posts talking about the coronavirus, knowing those are the only ones people cared about?

The final days in the office before we went into WFH mode consisted of COVID-19 strategy for each client.  We determined was their presence on social channels critical or not critical. If they were critical, what was the new tone and messaging? What value were they going to provide during the pandemic conversation? Some went dark for the week while others ramped up their social presence.  As all dine-in restaurants were ordered to close or only offer to-go services this was the time to inform the fans that our QSR client was open for business – drive thru and take-out only of course. Our tone changed, the images and messaging we used completely changed, the times we posted and how frequently changed. All on the drop of a dime, the social messaging had to quickly change – editorial calendar out the window. With the world changing at lightening speed – so did we.  Our objective: to maintain sales and communicate the locations were open for business.  Result: slight drop in sales compared to the previous year, which was record breaking. All-in-all it was considered a win.

Did we wait for our clients to reach out to us? No, we reached out to them with a solid game plan and anticipated their needs.  Supporting our clients during times of crisis doesn’t mean waiting by the phone for their office to call us because they are in a panic. But, instead being an advocate for their brand during these pivotal moments.  Being a marketer means knowing how to market to your audience and assist your clients during the good times and the bad.