Be Thoughtful, In Tune with Your Audience, and Adapt as You Go

Christine Gleed owns Circle Communications. Her focus is helping businesses find the most effective ways to share their stories in the ever-changing communications landscape. Her diverse professional experience includes leadership roles and consulting for communications agencies, national politics, high-tech, real estate development and many local businesses and not-for-profits.

We asked Christine to share her perspective and advice on marketing during COVID-19.

Some people aren’t aware of the subtle – or not subtle – differences between marketing and communication. As a communications specialist, how do you differentiate between the two?

There’s a lot of overlap between the two and many differing opinions, especially as the way we communicate with each other evolves. The major difference for me is that the scope for communications is very broad and is part of every aspect of your business. It includes your marketing language, how you manage issues, plan for crises and the language you use for everything from sharing news to educating your employees.

And how do they complement one another?

A marketing strategy is part of your overall communications. Where it’s most important that they work together is ensuring strong internal communications on marketing decisions, potential conflicts and planned campaigns and of course, having plans in place to manage kudos or pushback on an edgy ad or social media campaign.

What’s the most important role a communications strategy plays during an economic or societal crisis?

It will help you maintain a forward-thinking and flexible approach to staying connected with your customers, your team and the community. It’s vitally important to be ready for change and to be open to opportunities.

What advice do you have for businesses on crafting effective communications strategies both now and post-COVID?

This is a time to be really in tune with your audiences and how the health and economic wellbeing of your community might be changing day-to-day. Strategies in a time like this need to be long on thoughtfulness and planning, but short on exact details. A daily, weekly and monthly outlook and communications checklist will help to ensure your messaging is always up-to-date and relevant.

Do you think the pandemic will change the way businesses approach communications?

Times of hardship lend themselves to bravery and trying new things. I hope that more businesses will start sharing their company culture in a really meaningful way. I think the months before us will see a trend toward really honest, people-focused communications and that could be a very good thing.

Do you see any opportunity for businesses to create closer connections with their consumers or clients using communications and marketing right now?

Without question. We’re all a little beaten up right now, so it’s a time to use whatever you have in your communications toolbox to build others up. Be smart and share great information, be funny and lighten the mood or share a little of the vulnerability we are all feeling. These efforts will be remembered and valued by your customers and might even become a source of strength for you and your team.

What advice do you give businesses for maintaining share of voice?

Be helpful. Be part of the community. We’re all doing our best to get through this difficult time and your audiences will notice if you’re being thoughtful about their needs and the needs of your community. The options are endless and could range from philanthropy to simply supporting your customers, the community and other businesses with online sharing, purchases or reviews.

Any handy tips for business owners in coping with COVID?

Don’t let the weight of it all make you stop communicating with your customers. Even if you can’t work with them at the moment, it’s a really important time to remind customers that you value them and to give them reasons to build upon their relationship with you. Share your knowledge in an online video or find a new approach to serving your customers in a small way until you can be up and running at full capacity. If you pivot, don’t be shy about sharing that and asking for support.