Before COVID-19 reached its pandemic proportions, FOREFRONT launched Aforemention, a creative performance marketing agency, with plans to roll out partnership opportunities. While we have had to delay a creative project and an experiential marketing event, the group marketing team has turned its focus to introducing lighthearted virtual initiatives for our Forefronteers, such as a humorous #WFH photo competition to keep our team’s spirits high and a Facebook frame to encourage our employees and clients to stay at home, and help spread the message.
FOREFRONT has been around for almost 16 years, and the business has weathered through the country’s economic hardships, such as the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009. This time around, we are adjusting our business strategy, remaining cautious with our spending, and switching up our marketing messages to adapt during these trying times. In light of the pandemic, I would like to share six marketing strategies you can adopt to help tide you through.
1. Keep your audience engaged
The biggest challenge digital marketers face is timeliness. Everyone is online now when staying at home, but “when” is the right time to say “what”? The MCO is boosting digital content consumption. As more people are reliant on technology to stay connected, maintaining marketing momentum is crucial now more than ever, and this has to come with tweaks in marketing strategies.
For example, we are seeing brick-and-mortar businesses such as restaurants and fitness studios relying on Instagram Live feeds and YouTube videos to creatively engage with their audience online, whether it’s through cooking videos or live fitness classes. Digital marketing professionals can look at this as an opportunity to temporarily shift the ratio of their ad spend, and reallocate them to prioritise digital media.
Additionally, it’s worthwhile to be upfront about the challenges your business is facing during this time. Consider sending out an email to stakeholders, addressing this issue and what your business is doing to mitigate the impact, or update your social media channels and FAQ pages to detail the steps your brand is taking to handle this situation.
2. Provide situational clarity through marketing messages
Are marketing messages helping to responsibly disseminate information, assuage fears, and reduce panic during these times? Brands should consider these metrics in their strategy.
Marketing messages, especially those driven by trending topics like the COVID-19 pandemic, should aim to empathise, soothe, and support.
Businesses in most industries may experience a dip in sales and organic traffic, but instead of panicking and making impulsive decisions to make up for lost clicks, views, and conversions, it may be better for the long-term to take this time to think about what consumers really need during these times.
One of the things most people are affected by during this MCO period is their access to resources and services. Businesses can focus on addressing those needs in their own unique ways. Having thoughtful initiatives that let your consumers know you are listening and that you care not only attract an audience, but also help mobilise the industry you’re in to think better and do better.
3. Manage client expectations amid the fast-moving updates surrounding the MCO
Be proactive, especially when adapting strategy changes in these turbulent times. Find ways to communicate them in clear and concise ways to business stakeholders, to maintain trust and preserve long-standing relationships.
4. Communicate effectively with employees to ensure minimal business disruption
All of our colleagues here at FOREFRONT group are working from home, as a team, to ensure timelines are kept and work can be efficiently produced. It is important that we think outside of the box. Communication skills are especially important now, as we break down those communication barriers that come with being apart from one another.
Take inventory of the different work-from-home environments employees may find themselves in, and implement online check-in protocols that everyone can follow. While our employee communication channels include teleconferencing tools, we also have to take into account that not all employees have the digital access and conveniences they typically have in our offices.
You also might have a colleague who has to now juggle caring for her children at home, managing added responsibilities while focusing on her regular day-to-day workload; or a colleague whose lack of access to high-speed internet may cause spotty conference calls.
These are nuanced inconveniences we have to anticipate as employers, and we should take the time to understand and work out creative solutions that can benefit everyone. If done effectively, we are able to emerge from this MCO stronger as a team and more efficient as a company.
5. Take advantage of the impactful opportunities that enrich humanity
On top of practicing responsible communications when marketing to the public, influencers and brands in the business of content creation can aim to make relevant resources more accessible. For example, Aforemention’s content hub, The Full Frontal, has been producing related work-from-home articles and a compilation of official resources to help disseminate important information to our audience.
6. Set up marketing guidelines for COVID-19-related content
To navigate sensitivities in the face of the current pandemic, we’ve come up with a helpful brand content marketing checklist that can be remembered by the acronym C.O.V.I.D:
Calming – Does it empathise, soothe, and support?
Optimised – Is it optimised for different platforms?
Verified – Is your source credible?
Interest – Are audiences responding to it?
Drive – Does it create desirable outcomes? (performance in behavioural change)
Listen to your consumers, and follow their lead. Take note of what they need to read and listen during these challenging times, and use those findings to fuel your content marketing strategy.
As an organisation, we had to go online completely. We’ve had to find ways to keep each other motivated and entertained, and most importantly, remain productive. While we had to delay a creative project and an experiential marketing event, the Group marketing team has turned its focus to introducing lighthearted virtual initiatives for our Forefronteers, like a humorous #WFH photo competition to keep our team’s spirits high and a Facebook frame to encourage our employees and clients to stay at home, and help spread the message.
If your business is suffering during these challenging times, consider a broader perspective, and look at how your business can contribute and help the local community with its existing resources. You might even be able to find personalised ways to deliver unique experience and services to potential and existing clients. Opportunities are everywhere, if you look hard enough. This MCO is part of a community and global effort, and we should be coming together – while remaining apart – to collectively race against the virus.
The writer is Sylvester Hiew, associate strategy director at FOREFRONT and partner at Aforemention.