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Inspiring brands to be present & connected during COVID-19.

How destination marketing organisations are reacting and tips for communicating with your audiences in a pandemic.

Staying connected, being present and adopting a suitable tone of voice. Key.

Speaking to colleagues and friends in various industries over the past few weeks hasn’t been easy; morale is low, uncertainty high and confusion reigns. It’s a challenging time and we can’t deny that, but in challenge we rise, “This very moment calls for you to rise to the test and show your challenges what you are truly made of” words from self-help guru Edmond Mbiaka.

Businesses of all sizes are having to look at creative ways to keep the lights on. In the tourism space, we are seeing inspirational messages being shared, encouraging future travellers to dream and visit, later. Simple, effective call to action echoing guidance from the authorities while sharing messages of their own. This will help brands remain front of mind when the situation changes — and provides an opening for a continuity messaging something warm and inviting like, we’re still open, we’re delighted to help you plan your next adventure or simply come back. By adopting this approach, brands also seem more human — the common sentiment is that we’re all in this together, we get it — unity. Some destination marketing organisations (DMOs) have done a great job with this — some examples:

VisitPortugal — ‘Can’t Skip Hope’ .

South Africa — ‘Don’t travel now so you can travel later’

Scotland — ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’

VisitBritain & St. Lucia Tourism Authority were amongst the DMOs recognised by Skift (a travel media intelligence platform) for finding creative ways to keep their audiences and travellers-to-be engaged and encouraged. Those recognised demonstrated their ability to navigate the current atmosphere; bringing a sense of hope, positive vibes and consideration. They have pivoted their marketing to make it relevant to the times and ensured the tone is confident, light and considered.

Keeping in touch with the community, your audience and would-be audience is important at this time. Yes — we’re facing a global pandemic, but it will not last forever. If you can, don’t disappear. We’ll remember who rode this out with us, the brands that were natural. Focusing on writing weekly press releases of assurance … doesn’t work for every brand and audiences will see through it. I myself received an email from a CEO from a fashion brand — delete — I’ve never heard from this person and their customer service is terrible… lip service, this is not the time. I digress. Let’s bring it all together, some tips:

Don’t waste time We’re at home, multi-screening, bored, WFH, working out … we’re indoors on our devices. Use this time to connect, be in the space — make the space.

Stay connected Don’t disappear — pivot if needs be. Don’t stop sending emails, test out a new feature on the social media channels perhaps. Be smart and considerate.

Test it out Playtime! Have you been wanting to try a new email strategy? A feature on a social channel? A product? Anything low cost that you’ve been wanting to try — now’s the time. Your audience awaits. Don’t regret not using the time to move forward.

Revisit your values Remind yourself, your team, stakeholders — what makes you tick. A morale booster perhaps. It’s always beneficial to take time and look inwards to see outward.

Pay attention Again — be present, listen to your audience. As consumer behavior changes to adapt to this situation, you should be ready to adapt too. Pay attention.

Plan What? “But, resources are so uncertain atm”, I hear you say…Well dream and scale accordingly when you can. It’s not easy to do in times like this but if you’ll be able to withstand this storm (hurricane, tornado) there will be new normal. Get ready. Don’t rush — just do.

To wrap this up. It’s a tough time for marketers. Brands are having to be creative and mindful not to be insensitive and rightly so. Approach with caution — be sensitive and be smart. As mentioned, it is important not to disappear completely -if it is wise to scale back your regular comms, then do so — but be present. Destination marketing organisations, share relevant and well-timed messages, be creative, send uplifting messages through inspiring travel stories. Focus on: timing and tone.

I hope you’ve been inspired to keep pushing on.

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