Changing your messaging as we move toward the new “business as usual”

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By Mark G. Auerbach

There’s change in the air, as people grow more optimistic about the pandemic’s long-awaited finale. More and more people have been vaccinated; more and more restrictions and regulations are being loosened, and more and more people are feeling optimism.

As we gravitate towards “business as usual” or “the new normal,” how do you parlay your enthusiasm and your trepidations to your audience base and your employees? Do you have a reopening plan or steps in place to transition carefully and cautiously to your new normal?

You’ll definitely want to share your new or expanded hours, your new in-person options, and more with your audience. If you haven’t been mailing or emailing your base, or posting to social media frequently, it’s a good time to increase your frequency and provide updated information to the base.

Advertising options

You might also consider increasing your advertising to support your renewed visibility. Social media advertising can be effective, as can be local newspaper buys, and local radio or TV. Just remember that with many people working from home, “drive time” doesn’t really exist as it once did, and people are not necessarily tuning in to radio or TV news at their scheduled broadcast times, if it’s available to stream on demand.

The media have taken a hit during the pandemic, and many outlets are being quite flexible in your pricing. Media wants your advertising dollars, and they know that the marketplace is competitive, and, that you, the advertiser, want options.

Information about your new operating hours and safety policies such as social distancing can be shared as a press release too, if you use the opportunity to promote new products and services. And, include a quote from the CEO or spokesperson saying “how glad we are to welcome our customers back.”

Getting the tone right

Be upbeat in your new messaging. Convey your concern about the safety of your staff and customers. If you are requiring social distancing and masks, let it be known, and share it without apologizing.

As an example, The Berkshire Theatre Group, one of the cultural gems in Western Massachusetts (and one of two professional theatres to offer live and in person performances in 2020) is upfront about its upcoming summer season. They will require masks at all performances, social distancing measures, traffic flow and more, because they want to protect their actors, staff, technicians, volunteers, and audience. They position the restrictions in a way that they’re doing their best to make everyone safer, and at the same time, share their enthusiasm at being back on stage. The messaging works.

You may get some push back about your masking and social distancing procedures, and you should double check your policies, but be positive in saying that you’re doing your best to keep everyone safe. Customers often feel more comfortable when they see signs that you’re working to keep them safe: floor signage to punctuate social distancing and hand sanitizer stations.  And some businesses are getting smart by giving away logo-branded masks. It’s like a logo-branded sweatshirt, t-shirt or tote bag. When people walk around with them, it’s essentially free, mobile advertising.

It’s possible that the easing of restrictions may change, as we move into summer. A new COVID strain may make an appearance, and health departments and the CDC may tighten up on some of the previously loosened restrictions, forcing you, as a business, to change course. Apologize for the inconvenience. Be upfront about the changes in your hours, schedules, or events. Remind your customers that you’re working to keep everyone safe in changing times.

Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on TV and radio on WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB. His new series, On The Mark, premiered in October.

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