Why the right tone of voice is crucial during COVID-19

Posted on 23/04/2020 by Team Hallam

It's clear that this crisis isn’t going to blow over any time soon, so brands need to rapidly realign the way they speak to their audiences. With that in mind, here are just a few reasons why cultivating the right tone of voice has never been so important.

Right now there’s a huge appetite for consuming news and information relating to COVID-19, and it’s understandable that brands want to remain visible and active to their customers online – be it on social media, their website or via other comms. 

You’ve probably had your fair share of virus-related emails and headlines directed your way, and we’ve definitely seen ones that land and others that are way off-key. But if one thing’s for certain, it’s that tone plays a key role in how brands are perceived. 

It can be tough to know how to approach communication and messaging during this time, to the extent that some brands are reluctant to say anything at all for fear of getting it wrong. But it’s all about striking the right balance in order to portray your brand in a positive light. 

So now is the time to review your tone of voice and messaging, and focus on the needs of your clients, your prospective clients, your employees, and your wider business network.

A chance to offer comfort and reassurance.

The fear of the unknown is one we share as a species. Many customers are looking for guidance and stability during these dark times, and your messaging can offer just that. Speak like a human, with real understanding and empathy, and you can help to alleviate some of the negative feelings your customers may be having, even if only temporarily. 

Be sure to stay vocal – it might be tempting to hide in the shadows until this is over, but your customers will still want to know you’re there. Listen to their concerns and reassure them where you can. Because after all, aren’t we all looking for a little reassurance right now? 

Brands need to demonstrate that they’re genuinely helpful.

The time for big creative campaigns and attention-grabbing headlines may be on hold, but you can still demonstrate your value via other routes. Now is the time to position yourself as a caregiver, dial back on the sales talk and instead demonstrate what you can really do to make people’s lives that bit better. 

You don’t necessarily need to be taking the philanthropic route. Even just sharing your resources or offering expert advice can be of value to your customers. It’s all about highlighting the benefits of your business, not the features. 

And if you’re genuinely showing how you can provide help in this environment, you can expect an increase in brand awareness as a by-product.

People will remember if you didn’t do it right.

Let’s be honest, we’ve all seen the ones getting it wrong – airlines still advertising flights and trying to tempt you with the promise of winter sun come to mind for starters. Even celebrities aren’t exempt, with the likes of Ellen Degeneres and Sam Smith coming under fire for bemoaning the difficulties of lockdown while being quarantined in their multi-million pound homes. It just doesn’t sit right. 

Sam Smith during lockdown
Sam Smith shares photos of isolation struggles

Being tone-deaf in your messaging can be detrimental to your brand, to the extent that some Twitter users have taken to compiling spreadsheets of those who didn’t hit the mark, proving that people are likely to remember you for all the wrong reasons long after this is over.

The power of emotional branding

It’s no secret that an emotional connection works when it comes to marketing, so it’s no surprise that it works in context of a pandemic too. In fact, it’s probably the key factor for brands and campaigns that are getting it right. 

Nike are the masters of this kind of advertising at the best of times, and their messaging during the pandemic doesn’t stray from that. Their recent social media campaign aims to unite us with a sense of togetherness. They use emotive language that makes us all feel included in something – from the world-class athletes to the home workout enthusiasts.

Another example of a brand getting it right comes from new snack brand Emily. Finding themselves victims of an unfortunately-timed outdoor campaign, they amended their messaging in an attempt to look on the bright side of things.

They draw on contextual humour in a way that’s sure to bring a smile to people’s faces, and even if it will only be seen by key workers out in the wild, it’s certainly likely to make waves on social media for that all-important boost to brand awareness.

Your voice matters

Right now, it’s important that brands and marketers realise that all of their communication and advertising is taking place against the coronavirus backdrop, so need to be all the more careful when constructing their messaging, be it for campaigns or customer comms.

Our main recommendation? Be human, and be yourself. The difference between brands that get it right and those that get it wrong lies in their authenticity. No one wants to be talked down to by a corporate machine, but they don’t want phonies either – and most people will be able to spot them. 

In these times of worry and uncertainty, now more than ever brands need to be mindful of how they use their voice to communicate the right message to their customers and the world. It’s a great time to really humanise the business, and getting it right now will mean you’re remembered for it later. 

If you’d like help with your communications during the COVID-19 pandemic, or want to find out more about creating content that works for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch

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