Marketing During Uncertainty: How to Empower Your Brand to Be a Helper in Times of Crisis

Kayla Hammersmith Senior Content Marketing Manager, DialogTech

No matter your industry, the COVID-19 crisis is something every marketer is dealing with — and how your brand positions itself is key. We hosted a conversation with marketing guru and avid TikTok fan (yes, really!) Duane Forrester, Yext’s VP of Industry Insights, on how to empower your brand to be a helper in a crisis through your marketing. 

As part of our Mission-Critical Marketing digital event series, this conversation with Duane, along with DialogTech’s SVP of Marketing Viji Davis and VP of Marketing Dave McAnally, includes insights into how to position your brand as a helper, where to communicate with customers now, and how to plan for marketing strategies post-COVID-19. 

Check out the full webinar in this on-demand video — and discover some of the most impactful takeaways from the conversation below. 

There Is Only One Persona a Business Should Have Right Now: Be a Helper

If there was just one thing to take away from Duane’s advice for brands right now, it’s this. Now more than ever, you must be a helper. If we could get this printed on t-shirts, buttons, or baseball hats, we would — it’s that important.

We’ve all seen brands pivoting to this “helper” persona and rolling out messaging around how they are actively helping their communities and protecting their consumers. This is so important — and, according to Duane, if your brand isn’t highlighting human connection right now, you’re missing the point. 

The Channels You Should Focus Your Marketing Efforts Right Now

In addition to covering your bases in your email marketing, paid search efforts, SEO strategy, and your other typical programs, Duane encourages brands to focus on areas that are often overlooked. For example, you should identify the social media platforms you don’t have a profile on — or you’re not very active on — to see if your customers are talking about your brand there. If there are any online platforms where your customers are but you’re not, you’re going to look disconnected.

In addition to focusing on your online marketing channels and any traditional media sources like print, TV, and radio that you usually have a presence on, brands can’t forget about simple things like their phone systems. In light of business closures and shelter in place orders, the phone call is sometimes the only way that customers can call brands — and you don’t want them to have a negative call experience. In any time, crisis or not, customer experience matters. 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. Establishing a positive call experience is a major part of how a customer interacts with your brand right now, so this emphasis on call experience is more important now than ever before. 

In addition to updating your IVRs and call routing, Dave recommends making any adjustments or updates across all of your marketing channels that emphasize the call channel. If you’re running paid search ads, make sure you have call extensions in place and that these extensions are updated with accurate numbers. Ensure that your website has phone call schema in place. In your Google My Business profiles, make any updates to phone numbers as necessary. 

With Google My Business Features in Flux, Here’s How to Handle Review Management 

Though some Google My Business features are temporarily unavailable, that doesn’t mean your review management strategy should be put on hold too. 

Duane recommends using everything available to you now, so now is the time to bolster your presence on other sites with reviews like social channels and Yelp. Review management is a differentiator in times of crisis. People are searching for moments of connection — so even if someone is leaving a negative review, it’s up to your brand to connect human-to-human with customers and always leave a helpful, authentic, and empathetic response.

Ultimately, your review management strategy should not feel like a sales pitch. Instead, it’s a moment to provide answers. Customers appreciate the fact that your brand is trying to help and answer their issues and questions, so it’s essential for brands to put energy behind review management and answering questions. 

When Everyone Is Branding Themselves as a Helper, How Do You Stand Out?

So the only brand persona you should have right now is to be a helper — but if everyone’s a helper, how do you make sure your brand’s message cuts through all the noise?

Dave emphasizes the importance of listening to your customers, understanding what they care about and what their concerns are, and determining the role your brand plays right now. In order to be a helper, you need to identify what the current situation is asking of your brand.

Not every brand can donate N95 masks or produce hand sanitizer (shout-outs to Home Depot and Anheuser-Busch). Instead, your business should pinpoint how to use your team’s expertise to best serve your customers and communities right now.

For Duane, your primary goal shouldn’t be standing out. It should be protecting your people: your staff, your team, and your customers. When you show active empathy to your people through your behavior — don’t just put out “we’re here for you” messaging without backing it up with actions! — then you’re doing what you need to do. 

How Marketers Should Plan for a Post-COVID-19 World

While everyone’s minds are still on how to deal with the current crisis, it’s important to think about how businesses and marketers can rebuild and strategize for a post-pandemic world. 

Dave anticipates a world where the “helper” persona and emphasis on relationship-building is still vital — even after the COVID-19 crisis subsides. He doesn’t foresee a world where every brand goes back into a “sell, sell, sell” mentality, but a world where every business adjusts their products, services, and brand positioning to incorporate the importance of connection and support. 

Marketers should anticipate this shift and start thinking about how they can position their brand as helpers beyond the current moment. 

Tune Into the Mission-Critical Marketing Series 

To get all the wisdom that Duane and Dave shared, watch the full on-demand webinar, How to Empower Your Brand to be a Helper in a Crisis Through Your Marketing

Looking for tips on how you can adjust your paid search and SEO strategy during the COVID-19 crisis? Check out Managing Paid Search and SEO in Uncertain Times, an on-demand webinar featuring Reputation.com’s Director of Product Adam Dorfman. 

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