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Digital Content & COVID-19: The Art Of Copywriting During A Pandemic

November 13 2020 by Scott Stevens

This article is part of our content contributor series. 

Creating outstanding and engaging content is a consistent challenge. Information is flowing at faster and faster rates and is coming from every direction making it difficult for individual messages to stand out.

During events that affect a significant portion of the population like COVID-19, it’s appropriate to alter the tone and content of your messaging in order to stay current and show potential clients that your company is still active and relevant. Here are the main things to consider.

Shock Value

A staple of all written marketing is to grab attention by being bold, visible, and memorable. A common way to achieve this is to utilize “the shock factor” whether through clever humor or bold engaging statements. It is necessary, however, to make sure the tone of your company's messaging reflects the overall tone of your customers. If they are in the midst of a widespread and well-known event, then the shock factor approach may appear insensitive or uninformed driving potential customers away.

Keep your material relevant to your brand at all times. It may be tempting to use current events to force a connection to your product that doesn’t exist. If your product or company does have a genuine use or benefit that fits with that topic, highlight that but steer away from using overly positive or aggressive phrases such as, “Now is the time to take advantage…”, “This is the perfect opportunity…”, or “This is the best time to…”. All of these phrases can come across as forced or dismissive of the overall effect of the event. It can be more effective to show vulnerability and admit that you’re struggling to adapt, like everyone else.

Stay Consistent

Most companies advertise across multiple platforms. Social media, email, banner ads, physical billboards, and so on all need to reflect the same tone and message. If you alter your email marketing to reflect a new more somber and serious tone but are still posting quirky humor on social media the overall message you are sending will come across as unprofessional. The same goes for press releases that help build trust between your brand and the media. Keep them concise and to-the-point- that will not only show journalists that your brand has a solid marketing strategy, but will also help to avoid “media fatigue”.

Jeremy Moser from uSERP recommends to “standardize your messaging in a centralized tool, or database. I personally love using Grammarly and Writer. Both allow you to develop and harness a specific brand voice, tone, and message that remains consistent no matter where you share.”

Keep track of the changes you make to each area. Your previous advertising material could be used at a later date and staying timely and relevant in all of your media will provide cohesion.

Be Current

If you have had to switch from primarily physical locations to a heavy online presence make sure all of your advertising reflects this. The emails that updated customers on hours of operation or in-store only sales will not be helpful if your locations are closed. Adjustments to your website should be made promptly if there is a change in the status of your physical locations.

As changes occur be sure to stay up-to-date. This is where a detailed list of where certain types of information are displayed is incredibly helpful. For example, if your company has a history or some association with providing information about health events then displaying the most current directives is appropriate but always be sure to reference the best sources possible. The World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, and similar agencies will be the most current and reliable places to reference.


Maintaining all of your marketing streams while updating material and keeping abreast of changes can consume a lot of your time. Prioritize what needs to be done first. Update the most pressing information such as hours of operation or location accessibility, then follow with new and original content. Consider the use of outside resources to generate timely content. Copywriting services will be aware of current events and have the necessary information to maintain a proper tone.

The standards you had already set for the quality of your material needs to be maintained. A quick, slapdash message done just to get something out quickly can backfire spectacularly.

If you don’t have the time or talent to reliably write this content in-house, outsource it to a content writing service or work with a freelance copywriter. Use scheduling software and calendars to earmark when updates need to be done and when they’ve been completed.

Future Events

Marketing campaigns that were scheduled in advance for holidays or seasonal changes should be reviewed to make sure they reflect your current tone and style. Many companies plan well in advance if their business relies heavily on certain events happening and it can be easy to overlook material created months ago.

For example, the Halloween holiday has a long history of taglines related to deals to “die for,” coffins and crypts, the undead, and so on that may need to be vetted for sensitivity.

Sales Pressure

Urgent action words are a mainstay of advertising but may not be appropriate in current circumstances. A travel-related industry encouraging customers to book in advance, for example, is not going to resonate with people while a much more consuming event is occurring.

A more friendly tone may get a better response. Suggesting that someone think about their future dream vacation and encouraging them to research the area and make lists of attractions and excursions then providing a simple link to where all of that could be done provides a more positive approach without being overly aggressive.

In the case of widespread natural disasters, like wildfires or flooding that have made national news, appropriate ad content probably shouldn’t include terms such as “Urgent: 24 Hour Swimwear Sale” or “These deals are on fire.”

In Conclusion…

Marketing in a pandemic has unique challenges. While it’s impossible to be aware of what’s going on in every location, it is still important to understand major national or worldwide events that can impact your customers, and therefore, your advertising content.

Keep your standards high, be respectful and responsible, encourage engagement in a positive way. These small things can go a long way to helping your company succeed.

About Author
Scott Stevens

Scott Stevens is the CEO over at The Content Panel and mainly fills his days with reading about writing and writing about writing.

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