Marketing During Coronavirus: Which Media Channels are Most Effective?

A pandemic, something we never anticipated or planned for.

So, number one: it’s our job as marketers to understand our customers’ reactions to current events. As marketers, we are charged with helping to restore consumer confidence. Our priority should be issuing reassuring messages that are relevant, and yet empathetic.

Now is the time to listen to your customers and craft messages around them. Their questions and comments, whether by phone, email or social media post, will tell you what is important. If you do not address their concerns, they will find someone who will.

Second, determine the best marketing channel for your communications.

Social Media
Social distancing is propelling social media. It’s one way we have of staying in touch, keeping informed and sharing experiences. Put your brand where your audience is. This is the time to increase social listening. Respond to queries, complaints and compliments. Again, these are valuable cues for your communications.

Email List
Hopefully, you’ve segmented your email list(s) by demographics, geographic locations, etc. and can adjust your message accordingly. Remember to turn off automated emails.

Your Website
It is used by people who know you – and those looking for a company, consultant, organization or facility like yours.

  • Now is the time to blog, post media releases and update your FAQs.
  • Consider communicating with infographics and videos–these are more visual.
  • A landing page dedicated to COVID-19 keeps all the current information-and changes-in one place.
  • A website popup delivers your message immediately; include a link in your popup that provides more information, infographics, resources, etc.
  • With all of these, consider including a share button to help people spread your information to those who may need it.

Google and Social Ads
Online ads using social platforms and/or Google are a great way to target specific audiences geographically and demographically while sticking to a strict budget. Your ads can be changed within minutes or pulled instantly.

Over the Top (OTT)/Streaming
Now more than ever your audience is turning to Netflix, Hulu and other online streaming services for entertainment. During the first two weeks of March 2020, hourly usage for over the top (OTT) streaming has increased by 24% when compared to 2019. Usage for streaming devices like the Amazon Firestick have increased 16% during that same time period. This growth appears to be spiking as more and more states implement stay-home mandates.

In terms of meeting your audience where they are, OTT and streaming services will become more competitive as we move forward. However, the impact has the potential to be greater than ever.

Traditional Media
As the coronavirus spreads, Americans are more dependent than ever on local media for updates on the number of cases in their area, testing center locations and business closings as the coronavirus spreads.

According to The Wall Street Journal, there has been a surge in viewership for local televisions stations during the coronavirus, however, advertisers are pulling back (in a political year, no less). This could provide a rare opportunity to negotiate lower rates for your ads––as long as your messages are appropriate during the crisis. It’s important to note that safety protocols dictate limitations on production. Consider using b-roll (existing footage) or graphics unless you’re really good with an iPhone and editing software.

If you’re considering local radio, you may need to shift your schedule from drive-time to midday to capture the home-bound as the majority of radio listening occurs in the car. In a national study recently commissioned by Cumulus Media/Westwood One, nearly one in five heavy AM/FM radio listeners (those who listen to more than 5 hours of radio each week) say they will listen even more to broadcast radio due to the COVID-19 pandemic and 79 percent said about the same. Just 4 percent said their radio listening would decrease during the crisis.

According to the Associated Press, online readership and subscription for newspapers have risen. Some publications have even dropped their online payment requirements for coronavirus-related stories.


This is not the time to throw out your marketing plan . . . adjust it and keep adjusting it.

According to a recent survey from Advertiser Perceptions, one-third of advertisers canceled at least one campaign before it started in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty-five percent of respondents pulled a campaign already in progress, while 49 percent either pulled a campaign or delayed the launch because of the virus.

After recently binging Mad Men, I was reminded of my days working ad sales for a local newspaper. It was a standing order to pull all airline ads immediately following a plane crash. It made perfect sense back then and we should be just as thoughtful about our messaging during the pandemic.

You may need to reallocate budgets, find alternatives to the way you deliver goods and services, and change your communication channels.

Most importantly, do not stop communicating. Companies that respond to the crisis with transparency, compassion and regularity will reap the rewards. You have an opportunity to get ahead of your competitors, learn more about your clients, patients and customers, and most of all, build trust and relationships.

The bottom line, we don’t know what we don’t know. However, this is not the time to quarantine your brand. Remain alert and responsive to the changes as they occur. What you learn now will be invaluable for the future. I have no doubt some of the best crisis management plans will come out of the coronavirus epidemic, there will be young people better prepared for crisis management than the generation before them and we will all have learned a valuable lesson: to never, ever take anything for granted again.

BlaineTurner Advertising (BTA) Clients:

BTA employees continue to work from home supporting clients in every way we can and celebrating new business while advocating for front line workers and local organizations. The in-person meetings have been replaced with FaceTime, Zoom and phone calls. However, the collaboration, creativity, strategy and love for what we do–and whom we do it for–is going strong.

Ginna Royce
CEO / Creative Director

Delbert Royce
CFO / Vice President

Sarah Rogers

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