Now, more than ever, intention, message and tone matter

April 3, 2020

In times of crisis, we are reminded of the fine line between offering support and capitalizing on tragedy. With the current global pandemic bringing unprecedented strife and disruption, it is more important than ever that brands maintain lines of communication—but do so in an appropriately human way. The current crisis hopefully has a relatively limited window, but the impact of how brands communicate with their audiences during the crisis can have long-term effects, both positive and negative.

It’s about considering the frame of mind of the person receiving the information and asking yourself not, “do I want to convey this information?” But rather, “do they need to hear this information? Am I being relevant to them in this moment?” For brands, that means recognizing our shared reality, and containing your message to assurances that you are still operating, while taking all safety precautions, and therefore are still there for clients in these trying times. It may also mean reaching beyond your typical talking points, adapting your message, product or service to help solve the current need, i.e. relevance. Your tone should be compassionate and authentic, and your message focused. Note the difference in these two emails:

(to existing customers) As we all work to navigate the ongoing effects of COVID-19, I’d like to let you know how we here at [company] are responding to the challenge and what it means for you.

We’re very well positioned to adapt to the current crisis, thanks to a long-held philosophy of workplace flexibility and employee ownership. The team members you work with every day are equipped with technology and collaboration tools that allow them to stay engaged wherever they are.


(to new contact) I hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and managing through the quarantine. Things are quite interesting on my end, trying to work from home and home school two middle schoolers. The wine is very well stocked. 😊

While the world is a bit strange right now, [Company]’s top priority remains our clients. Therefore, I’m passing along this Coronavirus Insights Kit our research team has put together over the past couple of weeks.

The first is reassuring, the second off-putting. The first authentic, the second forced.

Communications are a key part of how we build brand presence in the mind of our clients. Brands have personalities, just like people, and messaging and tone should be grounded in and reflective of those personalities. The communications we put out now will contribute to lasting impressions beyond the current climate: a message that reads as tone-deaf or opportunistic now can undercut a carefully established strategy built around more positive brand personality attributes.

Now is a time to be generous and considerate with each other. It is a time to demonstrate the best your brand can stand for.

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