China first reported the coronavirus (COVID-19) to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31, 1999. Despite extensive efforts over the last several months to quell the spread, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica.

This pandemic has contributed to volatility in the stock market as investors consider supply chain disruptions and their wider effect on the global economy. Likewise, industries like travel/tourism and logistics are experiencing significant issues. Recently, economist David Rosenberg suggested the virus may throw Canada into a recession.   

It’s a stressful time and some of our clients are wondering what to do: Boost ad dollars to try and make up for dipping sales or cut back on marketing dollars to make up for lost revenue.  Here are our tips from a marketing and communications perspective. 

Stay Active 

If you operate a business that could be impacted by cancellations caused by clients or customers staying home, this is no time to go quiet on your social media networks. In the absence of information, speculation fills the vacuum and confusion can reign. We recommend using a “business as usual” approach:  

  • Continue to stay active on your networks to maintain connections with your client base;  
  • Keep your ear to the ground to find out what public concerns are so you can respond to them. Use your content strategy to address concerns proactively if you can;
  • Consider sharing safety tips on how to prevent coronavirus, linking customers back to official, verified medical information such as that provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) or your local health authorities.
  • Be proactive about announcing closures, adjusted hours, changes to usual business practices, or possible customer service delays due to employees working from home.

Consider Impacts 

If your sales are being impacted, it may not make sense to boost advertising dollars at this time, but it could be advantageous to re-direct those funds towards social listening programs and to foreign language customer service (such as WeChat) so you can address people’s concerns and questions personally, in their own language.  

In other industries, concerns around coronavirus may actually be boosting sales. For example, some folks are avoiding restaurants and shopping malls and may choose to make more purchases online or via delivery service. As well, health and wellness related goods are currently trending. It might make sense for your business to consider advertising on WeChat Moments or getting set up to accept mobile payments such as Alipay or WeChat Pay. 

Keep Accessible 

At a time when there is a great deal of conflicting information being disseminated, it is important to effectively address your customer’s questions and concerns. If you work in an industry where these are frequent — the airline industry for example — consider boosting your foreign language customer service teams.  You may also want to consider hosting live chats. Communication is key in a crisis and keeping those lines of communication open will be critical to your ability to navigate these rough waters. Having a robust content strategy in place will also help assuage concerns if you can proactively address issues in frequent articles and posts.  

Accuracy is Key

In an emergency or medical crisis, getting the right information out is more high stakes than ever. Don’t simply rely on Google Translate to get out important messages such as safety information or instructions to the public. Ensure you have it translated and localized by professional translators who live in the area your target audience resides. Many nuances of the English language do not come across directly when translated verbatim and need finessing to be properly understood. This is the important distinction that professional translation services offer.  

LAT’s team is here to help if you have any questions or concerns about how to manage your advertising dollars at this time. As a small, boutique agency, we are able to quickly shift gears to adapt to changing circumstances and provide solutions that are uniquely tailored to your business and to your specific situation. Contact us to get more information.