There’s a lot of doubt in the air. Everyone’s feeling it. People are petrified, nothing is certain, and we are standing in the unknown. This is why those of us in marketing must take a critical look at the tone and flavor of our content during this time.

One thing is certain: If you’ve written anything before March 12th, the tone will be wrong.

Social posts, blog articles, web copy, email newsletters - as much as us marketers like to plan and prepare, they’re all irrelevant right now.

If we’re not meeting our audiences where they are and helping them, we are not doing our jobs. So here are four tips and six excellent examples of company messaging to help you strike the right tone with your marketing during the coronavirus pandemic:

1. Be Gentle, Helpful and Kind

If you’re blogging on a consistent basis, emailing clients your newsletter, or updating your social status regularly, keep doing it. Helping your customers with genuine and useful content should not conflict with the current situation, but do ensure that your tone is one of helpfulness and understanding. Everyone on the planet is going through something right now, so bulldozing through the same content you would have posted before the pandemic would be tone-deaf. Run your blog posts, emails, social posts, and web content through the lens of your clients facing this global crisis. Take a red pen to any brashness or useless humor in your content with the goal of softening the tone.

When it comes to talking directly about the crisis, and what your company is doing about it, face it head on. Be authentic and provide a source of leadership. If you’re not doing anything about it, avoid the coronavirus topic, but stay the course with softer undertones.

2. Audit All Marketing Automation Communication

With the unwavering trends of automated workflows in marketing, so many of us have perfected the use of tried and tested nurturing sequences that (in normal times) have proven successful in generating conversions and sales. Many of us HubSpot users have folders and folders of workflows, and they work! Unfortunately, they may not necessarily work in these times. Be very careful with automated workflows, because during these times they might seem flippant and unaware of your readers’ state of mind.

Audit these workflows, and adjust messaging toward what would be considered more helpful than sales-oriented, keeping in mind that everyone is worried about the unknown. Crisis or no crisis, it’s always a good idea to audit automated workflows on a regular basis to ensure your messaging meets readers where THEY are. During these times, messaging needs to be gentle, not too clever or witty. People are feeling somber, and want to be understood. For automated workflows, it’s a better time to focus on the top of the funnel (TOFU), rather than the bottom of the funnel (BOFU).

3. Be Vigilant With Digital Ad Spend

Unless you’re in the healthcare supply, food delivery, or online meetings sectors, you may be noticing a decline in your paid media ad performance. It might be better to let CPA go up and ROI go down, rather than reduce the volume of incoming leads. When the crisis is over, we’re going to need to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. That steady stream of incoming leads will be well worth the increase in investment. The key is to stay on top of your Google ads and social media ad performance to understand how the crisis is affecting your individual business and lead generation.

4. Show How You Are Taking Part in the Fight Against Coronavirus

If your company is taking action against the coronavirus, adjust your social media posts and blog articles to include how your company is doing its part. Whether it’s procuring healthcare materials, ensuring safe environments, or adjusting to the new economic norms, tell your customers what you are doing to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

WARNING: This is not a time to thump your chest or self-indulge in “we’re so amazing” posts. This is a time for humility and authenticity. Look at what you’re doing through the lens of your customers and how it would affect them, and highlight those points.

Staff Picks: Best Examples of Corporate COVID-19 Messaging

Our digital marketing team has put together six examples of great communication they’ve seen during the Coronavirus pandemic crisis. Here are a few companies, large and small, that we feel are getting the tone just right.


Ironmark’s Digital Marketing Account Manager Samantha Pace remarked about Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson’s twitter video message to employees:

What was impactful about this address is how genuine and authentic Sorenson’s leadership is, and how candid he is on the impacts of the pandemic on the travel industry as a whole (worse than 9/11 and the 2008 recession combined).

Anmarie Gardens

Digital Marketing Account Director Chris McCready describes how this company reaching out for feedback struck the right tone for her:

For me, this was the first communication where someone went out of their way to ask ME how I felt and what I needed. Even the information they shared that would be on the website was about ME, not them. It was a nice change after hearing about how all the other companies are dealing with the crisis.

Anmarie COVID-19 Right Tone


GrubHub has done well with being upfront and candid about the situation their industry is facing, and how they are stepping up to the challenge to promote local restaurants and keep them in business while people are ordered to remain home. On top of that, they are fundraising for charities that will support their drivers and restaurant partners.

GrubHub COVID-19 Right Tone

Sagamore Spirit Distillery

Digital Marketing Account Manager Blake Leppert selected this local distillery, which has generated enormous engagement in its fight to manufacture 54,000 liters of much-needed hand sanitizer. Sagamore did a great job of corralling their social media followers to advocate for the change in a statute to enable them to manufacture the super-critical supplies. 

Sagamore COVID-19 Right Tone

The Phoenix Emporium

Digital Marketing Account Coordinator Reid Broendel found that in response to the crisis, the Phoenix Emporium, a local bar and restaurant, has been selling gift cards and carryout food, while putting 100% of these sales into a fund to help pay employee living expenses during the crisis. On every day they are open, they announce their available menu on social media. It’s a good example of a business looking out for employees, using social media well, and responding to the crisis. 

Phoenix COVID-19 Right Tone

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium & NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts

Juliet Hulse, Ironmark’s Digital Marketing Client Strategist, found it was fun that she needed to get through her COVID-19 crisis days. She stated:

It’s nearly impossible to escape seeing or hearing about the pandemic. Taking a moment to watch these adorable penguins trotting about Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium gave me the spark I needed to go on with my day! I’ve also been enjoying NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, which make me feel like the concert is just for me (and my pet fish Ricardo).

If you want to discuss your COVID-19 messaging strategy, please contact our strategy team here at Ironmark - we’d be happy to help. Click here to see Ironmark’s own messaging to our clients about how we are handling our COVID-19 business practices.

Stay safe and stay healthy!


Written by Lynne Kingsley

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