MindFire Communications, Inc.
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Marketing during a global crisis
March 29, 2021 | Sarah Larson

About one year ago, our nation went into a lockdown to help slow the spread of COVID-19. As we transitioned to working from home, we worried about buying toilet paper and groceries, learned where to find face coverings and began video conferencing…a lot.

While where we worked and how we worked changed dramatically, the need to quickly create good work did not. We had to pivot to help our clients across the board.

We’re taking a look back and sharing our key learnings. After all, we know that stuff happens. Change is the one thing we can count on, so here are a few nuggets from our Arsonists on marketing during these changing times.

Ben Franklin wearing a face covering

Know how crises may have affected your audience.

“With a specialty in research, my job is to keep a pulse on consumer behavior. Knowing China was a few months ahead with the pandemic gave secondary insight into how consumer behavior would likely change in the U.S. As the world changed, so did consumer buying habits, perceptions and expectations. Conducting primary research for our clients became a crucial vehicle to understanding those shifts better and helping our clients identify operational and messaging opportunities. By doing so, we can help them quickly and effectively pivot to meet their audiences where they are.” – Erin McKenrick, Brand Arsonist

Make creative with tomorrow in mind.

“This year had an element of unpredictability that made crafting the right creative campaign even more difficult than usual. The challenge was to be relevant and sensitive to the times while furthering a brand. With a campaign, you usually move ahead with putting all your eggs in that one basket. This year, we just made sure that basket was a little bigger than usual, so we could shift the eggs around when necessary. Our approach was to create campaigns that had flexibility to evolve and support different key messages as situations changed. It meant we had to be proactive and constantly monitor our messaging and pivot when needed.”  – Caroline Schweitzer, Creative Arsonist

Sum up the information.

“As a designer, it is my job to visually communicate clearly and creatively to solve problems while working within the parameters of a brand. While the COVID crisis does not necessarily change this approach, it has stressed the importance of simplicity, organization and transparency, especially with our clients in public transportation and healthcare. In times of chaos and confusion, be direct, authentic and instill confidence; keep your messaging clear. Infographics continue to dominate as they convey information quickly and simply without relying on excess words.”  – Kyle Krier, Design Arsonist

Be ready to pivot.

“When I think back to March 2020, the whole month is a total blur. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we spent the majority of that month pivoting our clients’ social content and messaging to the brand-new COVID environment. That meant scrapping all our well-laid content plans and feverishly creating new content from scratch. Not only were we living through the disorienting experience of COVID in our own personal lives – we were also trying to help our clients and their audiences make sense of everything.

Social media – more than any other medium – requires timeliness. If you’re behind, you run the risk of sounding tone-deaf and doing damage to your brand, rather than building it up. That means you have to pay attention to what’s going on around you at all times and be flexible enough to adjust your plan at the drop of the hat.”  – Inga Rundquist, PR Arsonist

Always pay attention to the news.

“It's my job to stay on top of the news because it's crucial to avoid pitching during sensitive times. Journalists don’t want to hear a product pitch when they’re handling a ton of serious and sensitive news. Knowing when it’s not a good time is critical. Likewise, when the brand’s news ties into current news, I go out with it and ensure the journalist knows right away that it’s tied to what they’re already focusing on.”  – Sarah Larson, PR Arsonist

Listen…really listen. Then adjust accordingly.

“As a Brand Arsonist, my job is grounded in strategy and client relationships. We heard of this thing called ‘COVID-19,’ but no one could have predicted how it would rock everyone’s world. Our well laid strategies were flipped upside down in a matter of days. March 2020 was filled with back-to-back calls from our clients. Regardless of the industry, we heard the same things – thoughts of uncertainly and a sense of urgency to react to both internal and external audiences. No one knew the ‘right’ answers in the moment, but we started where we always do…with a listening, compassionate ear. As a team, we made nimble, fast and smart recommendations for our clients. The last 12 months taught us a lot, but above all, we stayed true to the MindFire way: listen intentionally, be flexible, make a plan and always do what’s right for our clients.”  – Brianna Aust, Brand Arsonist

Incorporate what you learned into standard practices.

“For those clients who did not have a site-wide messaging system enabled on their website, we had to integrate one immediately so we could enable timely COVID-19 protocols and information updates in a way that site visitors could not miss. This information had to be customized based on client. Many clients also needed corresponding COVID pages added to their site outlining their COVID-19 protocols and how it changed their operations. For example, APQS manufactures longarm quilting systems, so for their COVID landing page, we published face mask patterns for customers to download to make face masks to donate. Now when we build a new website, a sitewide messaging system is a standard feature.”  – Jamie McFadden, Interactive Arsonist

Well, we made it through the past year. Here’s to learning and growing, so we’re prepared when change happens and crisis occurs. If your company needs help creating a crisis strategy, drop us a line.

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