COVID-19 resources

Are Your Current Marketing Communications Striking the Right Tone?

Cathie Ericson, Writer

As the pandemic continues, business owners and sellers alike have cycled through periods of uncertainty, anxiety, and acceptance of the new normal. This period of highs and lows has changed the way people connect with one another. For sellers, this means striking a careful balance with their tone and messaging to customers. Businesses have to walk the line between acknowledging the current challenges of the COVID-19 crisis while avoiding fear-mongering language.

While we are not yet back to business as usual, there are some ways to craft your messaging that encourages customers to engage with your business.

The Challenge of Finding the Right Tone

When COVID-19 first became categorized as a global pandemic, brand communications struck a uniformly earnest note with concern for businesses, messages of hope and encouragement, and thanks to our frontline heroes. But as conditions improved, brands needed to update their messages. A recent Market Dive study found that as early as May, more than 40% of consumers said they were ready to hear from brands about topics that weren’t related to the pandemic.

If you’re unsure of the right tone, you can’t go wrong with empathy, which a recent study from Ipsos one survey finds is more important than ever. ItThe study further revealed that the top three ways that consumers expect brands to express empathy are through being supportive, hopeful, and comforting. The bottom three ways were amusing, humorous, and emotional. And take note that nearly 70% said that brands’ response during this pandemic would impact future engagement.

If your tone is off, you obscure the message. The key is to examine the nuances of your messaging and if it will elicit the response you intend. Learn more about finding the right tone for your communications in Square’s Voice and Tone guide.

Marketing Communications vs. Crisis Communication

Many brands have increased the cadence and frequency of their customer communications as there are so many audiences who need to hear from them, all of whom may require subtle nuances in voice and tone.

But there’s a clear distinction between marketing outreach and the “crisis” outreach, such as you would have used with your existing customers andor team members in the early days. For those types of messages, you needed to make sure that your No. 1 number one goal is was transparency.

Customers who rely on your goods and services need to know the options for delivery or curbside pickup if your store is closed. If your local municipality is open, they need to know your hours and any limitations. For example, do they need to make an appointment or a reservation? Customers want brands to emphasize the efforts they are taking to keep them safe.

By being open about your plans, consumers will feel more confident visiting your store.

Different Channels, Consistent Messaging

Your tone also will change depending on the channel you are using. Think permanent vs. fleeting methods of communication.

For example, your website updates will be seen by everyone who visits. Your page and needs to convey the necessary information about disruption to your operations and updates on how customers can find you. Keep in mind that many of your website visitors might be happening upon you via find your business through organic search engines, which means these online communications are their first interaction with you.

A social media post on the other hand is likely being viewed by someone who has already initiated a relationship with you. They’ have chosen to follow you and receive your updates, so they’ are more likely to know more about your brand’s persona. If you’re typically more informal, that can still play well in a social media post, without going overboard.

Today there are so many communications options at your fingertips, and each can tell your story in a little different way.

Download Square’s Voice and Tone guide for guidance on how to adapt your tone for different marketing channels and a checklist to keep at hand while planning and drafting your customer communications.

Do This Not That

Cathie is a freelance writer who specializes in clear, actionable content on finance- and marketing-related topics to help owners of small-and-medium-sized businesses focus on their goals.