These are unprecedented times. The coronavirus pandemic appeared seemingly out of nowhere, putting a halt to our easy-going way of life, and the freedom to meet a friend for a coffee on a Saturday afternoon. 

For entrepreneurs, coronavirus is threatening our very livelihood. Department stores have stopped restocking perishable goods, and for photographers, events planners, and people in the wedding industry, work has pretty much dried up altogether. Those who sell products online are worried that it looks crass to still be marketing their goods. But does the pandemic mean you have to totally change the way you operate online? Absolutely not.

Through some simple tweaks to the way you operate on social media, you can crisis-proof your online content strategy, and continue safely in the knowledge that you’re doing your best for your business.

We’ve never faced a global crisis of this magnitude before, so it’s natural to feel unsure as to how to respond. These are some of the questions I’ve been asked since we all descended into isolation:

  • What should I be posting?
  • Will my content offend people?
  • Is it tacky to post funny content?
  • Are Coronavirus memes going to lose me followers?
  • Is it still acceptable to be marketing my products? 
  • How should I pivot my content strategy to account for the crisis?

If any of these questions have been on your mind, read on for some tips and tricks for a crisis comms strategy that you feel good about.

You still have an audience

First things first, there is absolutely nothing wrong with selling your product or service during this time. As long as you stay away from fear-based marketing (eg. “Worried you’ll go bankrupt and lose your home during the pandemic? Sign up to my course to make sure that doesn’t happen”), you’re fine. Promote what your product or service can offer people, and then it’s up to them whether or not they want to click ‘buy’. 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of the freelancer bubble. If all your friends are photographers who have had all their bookings cancelled and can’t pay rent, it’s understandable that you assume everyone is in the same boat. The reality is that not everyone is struggling financially during this time. Many people who aren’t self-employed are continuing working their day job, just sitting at home rather than in the office. We’re not going out and spending money, so some people might even have more disposable income to spend on clothes/ courses/ life coaching than usual. If your usual audience is made up of people who are watching every penny right now, think about how you can slightly pivot your offering to target people in full-time jobs. You still have an audience – just maybe not the one you had before the crisis. 

Feedback, feedback, feedback

We’re all fumbling in the dark here. There’s no right or wrong way to spend your days, and that extends to the way you choose to show up online. To make sure you’re not offending anyone, the key thing here is to keep an open conversation with your followers. It’s a great idea to jump on Instagram stories or post in your Facebook group being open about the fact that you’re unsure what to post. You could share a poll asking people what type of content they’re after. Do they want helpful crisis-related information? Do they want you to continue with your IGTV series business as usual? Or are they after some light relief in the form of memes about a certain new Netflix show? There’s no way of knowing for sure without asking, so have that conversation.

Own your mistakes

Naturally, mistakes can happen. You could post something that really doesn’t resonate with your audience, and leads to you losing a bunch of followers. You could share a meme in your Instagram story, only to be messaged by some of your core fans saying it’s insensitive. Don’t worry about it, and don’t overthink it. If you know you’ve misjudged a piece of content, delete it, own up to it, and move on. Trust is now more important than ever, so you definitely don’t want to be seen as sneaky by deleting something and pretending it never existed. Now’s your chance to show up as an authentic presence, someone that people know they can trust, and that reputation will far outlast the current crisis. 

Be consistent

If your audience knows and loves you for your bright and cheery personality, it’s maybe not the best idea to show up on stories in tears and in panic-mode. In the midst of so much uncertainty, we’re craving what we know. Don’t feel like you have to stop all normal and non crisis related content. If you have a weekly Mood Board Monday series, keep that going! We’re all being more intentional about the content we consume, and no one would say no to some aesthetic inspiration to start off the week. If you have an IGTV mini series interviewing entrepreneurs, keep that up. It’s nice to keep things as consistent as possible while we navigate these weird times together. Conversely, if you feel like you’re unable to keep up with your usual posting schedule, don’t worry about it. If you’re too anxious to show up on your stories like you usually do, take a break. If you feel up to it, you could even write a post explaining how you feel — I’m guessing that would resonate for a lot of us. 

Don’t spread fake news and negativity

Seriously, just don’t. There’s enough going around as it is. If you’re not a doctor, stay away from forwarding WhatsApp chain messages or sharing a post to your stories detailing “the 5 step test you can do AT HOME to see if you have Coronavirus”. In the moment, you might feel like you’re helping people by spreading the message, but almost every post with suspicious scientific advice that has been doing the rounds in the past weeks has been debunked by medical professionals. And then you just look a bit stupid. 

Remember, your reputation will outlive the crisis, so try not to be too impulsive. Focus also on why people follow you. If your speciality is creative photography or graphic design, I’d feel confident betting that people aren’t following you for your medical advice. That being said, there’s no harm in sharing infographics from very reputable sources like the NHS. And if you find a great resource detailing financial help available to small businesses, by all means go ahead and share it. Ask yourself if what you’re about to share is positive or negative, and move on from there.

Don’t go silent

Lastly, remember that you have something of a responsibility to your online followers. If you’ve had to implement new measures in light of the crisis, don’t leave people guessing. Make new shipping policies clear, and if you’ve taken your events online, make sure ticket holders know how to use the video platform you’ve chosen. Clear communication is more important than ever, so if you’ve changed when you check your emails to fit in with homeschooling your kids, remember to update your auto-response message. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together, learning and adapting as time goes on. 

Take care of yourself first and foremost, make sure you’re not consuming too much mindless content (I’m looking at you, Joe Exotic memes), and take things one day at a time. It will all be over before we know it.

About the author

Phoebe Dodds

Phoebe is Found & Flourish’s resident Business blogger, she is London-born and Frankfurt-, Paris- and Amsterdam-raised. Combining her Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship with 10 years writing for international publications, she’s the founder of BURO155, helping female entrepreneurs achieve their business goals through strategic online content. Phoebe is also a writer, and has written for outlets including the Huffington Post, the Guardian, the Next Web, For Working Ladies and Restless Magazine.

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