How to find marketing purpose during a pandemic

By Cathy Colliver


Louisville, Kentucky, USA


Ordinarily, marketing is about telling the brand story in a multitude of ways on different platforms to target audiences to convince them to take action and use your product or service.

When there’s a global pandemic going on, that can feel a wee bit superfluous.

Many marketers have been on a rollercoaster of a flurry of communications activity about changes in services or other responses to the rapidly changing circumstances. Others have been unsure of what to do amidst uncertainty of how things will change from week to week. Marketers are visionaries, but we’re also planners. And not being able to plan more than a day or two ahead is hard.

Media companies and their advertising customers need help finding guidance in troubled times.
Media companies and their advertising customers need help finding guidance in troubled times.

So, how do you continue to tell the story and connect with customers when daily life is in upheaval?

Find your horizon line

As a former co-worker of mine said, in a situation like this when you’re trying to cope, find your horizon. What is the thing that’s constant? For her, it’s the birds chirping outside and plants turning green as spring appears.

Find your horizon line. Give yourself space to understand how all of this is affecting people. Start with trusted resources that aggregate trends and statistics for you so you’re less overwhelmed.

There is a great step-by-step guide to using the Google Trends tool, including an easy way to sign up for updates on specific topics. eMarketer has a page for curated statistics and articles related to coronavirus. Many groups focused on small businesses are providing resources to help them navigate changes in services, shift to remote work, and loss of business. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce set up a coronavirus small business guide, which is being updated daily. Resources like these can give you a view into what your small- to mid-sized business clients are going through right now.

How can you help?

Don’t focus on traditional marketing or selling right now. That train of thought will take you back to worrying about uncertainty or feeling frozen in place because you can’t plan more than a day or week out.

Here are two ways Gannett’s flagship news brand USA Today and our marketing services division LOCALiQ are doing exactly that:

  1. USA Today’s Support Local platform was built to help the more than 260 communities we serve support local businesses.
  2. LOCALiQ set up a Response Resources page to help local businesses navigate what they can do now and in the future.

Remind yourself that the best thing you can do for your customers right now is identify how you can help them and provide resources to do just that.

About Cathy Colliver

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