The world is under an upheaval due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is clearly one of the biggest challenges we as humanity have faced in this century. Nothing has been as unprecedented and deadly which has been witnessed around the world till now.
The COVID-19 crisis is now officially a pandemic affecting millions over the world and killing thousands. This is one of the first kind of epidemic to be experienced this century and a first for the younger generations.
The destruction of the virus is causing from human mortality, economic depression to social mobility is life-changing. Industries like travel airlines, hospitality, tourism have crashed. There is panic buying in the supermarkets as people stock up their reserves for months to come.
People all around the world are confined to their homes and working remotely.
( I am working remotely as I write this. )
In such crisis time, a brand marketer wishing to effectively communicate on email with their subscribers needs to have a certain tact. Primarily, the question every marketer should ask is if they really require any email to be sent during this time?
Are you offering any value to your subscriber today which can help them tide over this crisis with confidence? Will your subscriber be interested in any promotions you send around this time? Are you being kind and considerate with your tone?
If you cannot do any of the above, we would suggest refraining from sending any COVID-19 campaign just to capitalize on this phenomenon. If you choose to still send some promotional campaign, it will be lost somewhere in the user’s inbox which is already flooding from CEO messages and other COVID-19 safety mails.
There is an onus on brands irrespective of the industry to create awareness among the general public. Only those emails which mean to genuinely help people will be noticed and form meaningful relationships.
Some brands are flourishing in this art of authentic communication and creativity but there are some brands who are getting it entirely wrong and coming across as insensitive.
In this post, we will go through 5 tips for a brand marketer to follow in order to communicate with authenticity in their email communication.
Also, we shall provide tips to avoid in your communication to prevent sounding insensitive and getting your email reported to spam!
The 5 rules to follow for brands to create awareness:
These are the 5 tips to follow to ace your email messaging during corona crisis and get your point across to your subscribers correctly.
Be mindful of your audience
Your coronavirus communication should not be sent to everyone in your mailing list.
Don’t be another email in their inbox. That is not the correct aspiration to have.
What we recommend is to figure out those users who will be affected by your messaging.
Eg: Some of your regions of service could be impacted due to lockdowns or public closures, then you can send the users of such regions your update.
If your service is not based on location, then send your campaign to an active audience who are engaged with your brand and will respond positively to it.
Eg: send it to last 90 days activity based on opens and clicks. Alternatively, you can send it to last 90 days transacted users. Do not touch base with inactive users who you have not contacted for last 1 year.
This will help your email deliverability too as the engagement of the active audience will be high.
Offer value to your subscribers:
Don’t follow the herd in sending updates on how you are going to keep your employees safe from COVID-19 and ensuring business continuity by working remotely. This offers no meaningful takeaways for your subscribers.
Instead come up with ideas where you can offer some practical ways to combat the virus and deliver your service to the subscribers.
1mg an online pharmacy brand had done a campaign where they attached an e-book which contained an action plan for precautions to be taken against the coronavirus.
The zero-contact campaign done by Dominos Pizza  to ensure their customers keep enjoying their pizzas without fear during COVID-19 situation was a first of it’s kind.
Such campaigns persuade your subscribers to open the emails and check the content.
They will remember the communication sent during this crisis time and build affinity with your brand throughout their customer cycle.
Monitor your engagement and deliverability metrics
Once you send your campaign to your targeted segment, monitor your engagement. What kind of open and click rates are you receiving for your COVID-19 campaigns? How many users reported the emails as spam?
Answering these questions will help you select the audience for the next campaign in a better way. Target to a volume of users you are used to sending your promotional campaigns till now. Don’t diverge from your usual volume pattern and send it to your inactive audience as that will result in a dip in your inboxing. Unusual volume pattern results in a drop in email deliverability.
Please remember that email spam filters don’t change just because the global scenario has changed. So keep monitoring your deliverability and ensure your domain health is maintained.
Opportunity to think out of the box
The COVID-19 situation is overwhelming to say the least and will take time to subside. But despite the challenges, it offers a golden chance for a marketer to make a mark with brilliant email campaigns.
A dose of creative and innovative thinking can create a special campaign. The point is to come up with something that your users will like to engage in and will leave a good impression of your brand in their minds.
If you can sympathise with your audience and still ensure that you provide some service to your customer which eases their situation then it will be accepted readily.
This could also include community service in such dire times.
If you a ride-hailing app and you offer to help with essential transport for health professionals and other emergency services for the people.
Eg: This campaign received in the mailbox by Lyft a US-based ride-sharing service has done a great campaign on the same lines.
If you are an online grocery store then perhaps you can educate your audiences better on avoiding stockpiling. Also, which items are being recommended to be bought and kept in reserves. It will also help if you can provide information on your inventory for certain essential items and how to use them sparingly for the public.
This campaign by Grofers  explains precautionary measures they take for delivering the goods. This will provide relief to the customers knowing that the goods being delivered are disinfected and are safe to use. The staff is also screened hence receiving a delivery from them should not be a concern.
Also with the closures and lockdowns in big cities, the brick and mortar stores are open only for a few hours per day. Considering this, people will prefer ordering from online grocery stores rather than stepping out.
Double-check your automation and trigger campaigns
Check back on your automation and trigger journeys which may be still active and sending promotional communication to targeted users.
Check if these campaigns are in-line with the global scenario today and if they sound meaningful to be sent to the user. If there is any chance of sounding insensitive during this time, then you can temporarily pause on those journeys from being sent, till things clear out.
5 Practices to Avoid for a Marketer Sending COVID-19 Emails
The last thing your customer needs right now is any kind of promotional offer for your product with a deadline to buy before it expires.
These kinds of campaigns will come across as insensitive and unethical considering that thousands of people are dying around the world and people are scared of staying at home for their loved ones.
Your tone of marketing has to clearly shift from one of the promotions to one of empathy and showing genuine concern. It would be appreciated much better by your customers if your brand tone is one of genuine empathy and suggestions for ways to tackle this virus.
Trying to be deceptive and seek profits
Some brands may take up this opportunity to sell their service or product under the guise of corona crisis.
It would be unethical marketing if a marketer wishes to sell their products and make profits under the hood of fake sympathy.
If you are still confused then take proper permission of your customers to send them promotional communication and act on their feedback.
But sending any kind of promotional messaging now without gauging your customer feedback will be seen as eerily deceptive. There could be spam complaints for such emails and that will damage your domain health and deliverability.
Follow the herd mentality
Financial and government institutions can send their mandatory emails on COVID-19 precautions they are taking. These are mandatory regulatory emails that BFSI sector has to send to their customers.
But that does not mean that your brand has to follow suit and send basic precautionary measures that you are taking for your employees.
With the huge amount of messages that the user will be receiving from all the brands during the corona crisis, your email should not land in their inbox as just another message to read and delete.
Hence the brand marketer should stand out from the competition and do something unique to engage their audiences.
For eg: Have a look at this email, which caters to banking industry of India – a classic example of following the heard mentality.
Not offering any value
Some questions a marketer can ask themselves before sending a corona crisis email :
Is there something extra you are providing your subscribers during the containment period?
Are you offering any community service or any stay at home kit to ease the pressure on parents at home who have to work as well as take care of their young ones?
Are you offering your services digitally now as physically people are practising social distancing?
Restaurant can send their special chef made healthy recipes on video to your inbox so that you can stay healthy and boost immunity.
A theatre can provide movie recommendations during quarantine period that you can stream from their online platform.
If you can’t provide any value to your customers, refrain from sending any email communication during this period.
Keeping a light-hearted tone
COVID-19 crisis is a serious matter of concern around the world and any attempt made to ridicule it in your marketing communication will be a setback for your brand.
Any light-hearted communication should be avoided during this period as your customers will not appreciate it and it would impact on your brand image.
Keep your brand tone serious and get your point across in a sympathetic and formal manner. Your users will respect your brand for the same.
Summarising, here is a video which I created to summarise the tips a brand take for their email communication during covid crisis-
The above do’s and dont’s should help brand across all the industry verticals to create awareness within their subscribers via email. The challenge of coronavirus presents an opportunity to engage with your audiences with some innovative content.
So get your creative ideas on the table and see how you can provide value to your customers during these troubled times.
Have an idea that you can share? Leave your feedback in the comments below.
You can also check if emails from your domain are landing in Spam – Email Blacklist Tool