We’re all products of our respective environments, and most of us are feeling an incredible level of stress due to the impact of COVID-19. Our response to the pain we feel is to relieve the pressure causing it. That said, I cannot stress how the words we use in our messaging today become exponentially more important during times of crisis.
You may think this is an obvious point, but you must consider the current landscape. The longer businesses stay closed, the more desperate they will become, creating a greater chance for poor messaging to be distributed in an effort for self-preservation. In this article, I’m going to discuss how to prepare your communication and a few touchpoints that could help your business if executed properly.
ASSESSING YOUR AUDIENCE
The key to successfully delivering any content is to consider the status of your audience. At this specific moment, it’s fair to assume that the vast majority of your audience has similar concerns and needs. These needs will obviously fall into a spectrum, but more importantly, if the message is crafted properly, it won’t require variations to resonate with everyone.
Now, let’s think about your audience. What are they feeling today? This may be different based on the industry. At a very high-level, here’s how I would assess some of the industries:
- Restaurant and Retail: This sector is being hit particularly hard. Some have been able to soften the impact by moving their businesses to meet online and delivery demands. Doing this may have allowed them to retain some existing staff, but many have still been furloughed as a result of the sharp decline in transaction activity.
- Healthcare: I feel like this can be a split field depending on which area of healthcare you belong. Private practices and non-essential care facilities are likely closed and experienced layoffs, while essential workers are in short supply. Hospitals and urgent care are experiencing unrealistic demands on an infrastructure that was never intended to endure such levels. If you have the necessary skills and are willing to take the risk, there is massive demand.
- Accounting and Finance: While brick and mortar locations have been closed, the government’s efforts to provide forgivable SBA loans to companies has created another demand. The banking industry is underwriting, processing, and funding these loans with an infrastructure that never intended such volume. The back office is likely experiencing a spike in hiring practices.
- Information Technology: This group can be anywhere on the employment spectrum, depending on the company that employs them. This group has a higher likelihood to be remote today and, therefore, more potential to still working and hiring.
- Light Industrial: This group has found themselves in the unique position of becoming an essential worker while attempting to maintain physical distancing. Since “non-essential” brick and mortar locations must be closed due to the pandemic, logistics personnel have become more critical than ever to ensure that we can still get what we need.
To be fair, there are obviously more than just five niche groups, and I’m sure more details can be added. This should give you a good starting point to assess your audiences, how they’ve been impacted, and sort out your messaging.
CONNECTING WITH YOUR DATABASE
So many times in a good market, people outside of marketing want to blast their databases with messaging that will best serve their organization. Add a sharp decline in transaction activity and the reaction to the desperation will most certainly lead to this idea. I get it, but in today’s climate, it’s more important to provide messaging and offers that support your audience first. In there, you can offer support and resources that could lead to conversions, but it can only work if you start the messaging an area that meets your audience’s needs first.
In staffing, your database is broken into two primary clusters, Hiring Managers and Candidates. I would highly encourage crafting separate messaging for each of these groups that is informative while offering support at different levels since you don’t know their current employment status or needs.
The idea is to find the common denominators that allow you to craft universal messaging that feels personalized. For the best results, list out the potential needs of each group and align them with what your staffing agency offers as solutions. This will give you two bulleted lists of working solutions that will resonate with your audience. Keep these near by as you’ll include them the body of each email.
This campaign should also be more about collaboration than aspiration. What I mean by this is, now is not the time to sell and show a future state solution. The implications of pushing people to the bottom of the funnel too fast could irritate an already raw situation and drive your audience away because they feel you can’t relate.
Provided your database is managed and clean; personalization tokens can also be used to give your message the personal touch needed to breathe life into an email and make it look like it was built for that one recipient. You’ve likely already received messaging like this from your vendors. The hiring manager message that I just distributed included a soft opening message, a list of what we can support, and a simple CTA (Call to Action) for managing conversions and lead follow-up.
Side note: I get the question a lot about branding and designing emails to be “more engaging.” My response is that super developed HTML style emails should be used for newsletters, but have no place for marketing automated email distribution. The art in this process is to appear as though it’s a one-off email written only to them. To pull this off, it must look organic, like it came from your hands. That said, delivering an email in HTML format would quite possibly be the most significant waste of time when trying to communicate on an individual basis, and your audience is aware of this. Data shows that HTML style emails don’t get nearly the same level of response and engagement as an organic-looking email.
PUBLISHING BLOG ARTICLES
When it comes to articles, here too, you may have to make some adjustments to your editorial calendar. The type of content you produced in the past may not resonate with your audience today. Look for ways to stay relevant with your group while being mindful of how the lives of your audience may have changed. The old expression is “threading the needle,” and in this case, it means making subtle adjustments to deliver more contextually accurate content. Doing this again will inform your followers that you are in collaboration with them and understand what they may be thinking or feeling. You’re aligning with them.
Some of our most recent topics have included:
- Monthly Jobs Report: if you’re like me, you like to have an organizational perspective on these numbers. Sure they’re crafted by brilliant minds, but I want to associate their findings to our worlds to tell how the changes will impact those we help. Providing this narrative in a hyper-specific way means that the content I’ve provided is different than the mainstream publishing of the numbers.
- Best reasons candidates reject offers: the job market is moving, albeit slower than earlier in the year, but it’s still moving. It’s essential to keep such things top of mind as employers make the most challenging and vital hiring decisions during the chaos.
- Best Practices in Remotely Managing Teams and Hiring During COVID-19: with many companies being tossed into this pandemic remote work situation, it’s important to provide any insight we can to help them retain their workers and maintain productivity.
- COVID-19 Outbreak Causes Firms to Reconsider Working Remotely: in this rapidly changing landscape where companies are operating from day-to-day, making reactionary decisions for self-preservation, we provide knowledge and insights to help them through these challenging times.
As you can see, the topics have been adjusted to be more sympathetic to what our audience is going through. It’s an attempt to provide them with the knowledge they need to make sense of what they’re experiencing.
STAYING RELEVANT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media is usually a space that gets little strategic attention. Outside of some broad definitions per platform, many tend to just push out blog messaging, culture, and news. Much of the ways we create these guidelines are based on the trends we see. Here’s where things can get a bit dangerous for a brand. With the recent surge of people out of work, there’s been a surge in content that runs the gambit, but before you jump on the “number of days in quarantine” or “most bizarre home office setup,” remember that you’re still operating a business. Being silly or edgy during a time like this will likely be seen as insensitive and unprofessional. You’ll also want to consider other campaigns that may be running simultaneously and decide if these messages are in conflict.
I’m not recommending that you can’t have fun or take advantage of a trending element that could get you exposure, I’m just suggesting that you make sure it’s the right kind of exposure. Nothing could create greater conflict than sympathetic messaging through one distribution platform mismatching a silly social media campaign showing a lack of concern.
Use the work you performed above. Align context and messaging from within that framework. It does lead to conversion.
For a promotion to be relevant today, it needs to address the concerns people experiencing. This means it’s not enough to be clever or cheeky, to get a large number of form fills. First, busywork isn’t useful for the audience or the organization. Second, put in the effort to make it meaningful. A promotion should be able to follow these simple points:
- Offer aligns with the pain point
- Participation requirements support environmental needs
- Qualification allows for audience-wide participation
- Rules of engagement are simple and risk-free
- Messaging is clear and concise (not manipulative)
Once you’ve crafted your promotion, get some sample responses from people unfamiliar with its buildout. Ask for their feedback as they understand the promotion. If the buildout of this promotion is thoughtful and deliberate, it should be interpreted accurately by anyone that comes into contact with it.
The words you use need to be carefully selected to ensure that the message aligns with the offer. If I told you I’d give you the first month free, it implies that you’ll pay nothing for the first 30-days of service. It can’t mean that you’ll pay the first 30-days and I’ll reimburse you on the third month by decreasing the amount I typically charge by what you paid in salary from the first month. It’s a much cleaner promotion to simply offer a lower or flat service fee, which would be the equivalent of the salary expense from the first month. (This should make sense for staffing agencies, but feel free to message me if you want to discuss further.)
IS IT A PRESS RELEASE?
I was recently in a discussion about a press release regarding the promotion mentioned above. From the onset, the campaign sounded impactful! The message was clear, concise (Free Salary for the First 30-days), and wildly attractive based on the current market conditions. Because this was such an extraordinary offer, it would resonate with journalists incredibly well, resulting in getting some PR traction. Where it started to breakdown was in the details of the promotional. If you’re not a staffing professional, the more you dug into the details, the more confusing it became. This lead to a series of discussions which improved the clarity of the offer, but also made it more definitively an advertisement and not PR.
There’s a responsibility when it comes to PR. Journalists want to talk about extraordinary things that people are doing outside of promotional advertising. For this reason, the more complicated and promotion details topic become, the less likely it will be picked up by journalists. In essence, it becomes less of a press release and more of a paid promotional advertisement. When that impasse occurs, the publishing house will gladly let you pay to promote your ad with their audience, but they will not give you airtime for free.
In the end, every one of us is struggling and coping with the rapidly changing environment, trying to figure out how to navigate the landscape of COVID-19 and a global pandemic. It’s more important than ever to attempt to meet people where they’re at and align with them to collaborate on what the next steps should be to help them move forward successfully. Sure, it’s a bit more of a long-game, but aren’t you in this business for the long-haul? This global pandemic, while intense, will pass. The question is, how will you be remembered when it’s over? Will you be seen as an opportunistic organization or a caring company that looks out for their community? I’d prefer the latter.