News & Views

Talent & Business Advertising Amidst COVID-19: Tone Deaf or Smart Strategy?

There has been much discussion within DCI’s virtual walls about messaging in the “Age of COVID-19,” with everything from brand integrity and community reputation to doing what’s right all very much at the forefront. Needless to say, it’s a tricky subject, especially for advertisers. When compared to the reality that’s unfolding each day on the news, advertising can seem almost shallow at times.

However, decisions on where to live or where to open a new facility are still being made, and life is going on (normally or abnormally) for many individuals. From a business attraction perspective, global supply chains are under review and certain industries are likely to be impacted heavily, from the life sciences and manufacturing to logistics and distribution. Those are not decisions that are going to wait for long; they’re happening now. On the talent side, the loss of a job is a life-changing event that might spur a relocation (possibly to a familiar place like a hometown), and don’t forget the massive skills gap during the last recession that meant companies were still hiring for the “right” talent despite high unemployment.

So where does that leave us? Do we continue advertising as if the world is right again, or do we acknowledge what’s happening and try to weave that into our messaging? Or should we just stop advertising until the world opens up again? There are no perfect answers, but we did find guidance from two sources this week.

One was a presentation that LinkedIn shared with insights from their users and the platform’s own trending behavior. The one stat that struck us: “73% of respondents agree that brands should advertise as normal or have no opinion.” That’s a significant group saying, “don’t bombard me with COVID-19 messaging if it’s not directly relevant to what you do.”

When that hit our radar, we then looked through various social media platforms to see how other brands are handling their messaging. What we found confirms what respondents are predominantly requesting—stay in your lane! See some images below for samples from both LinkedIn and Facebook, across both consumer and B2B marketing. We have dozens of these we’ve reviewed, so we’re only sharing a sampling, but trust us, there are plenty.


Still unsure? Here is our recommendation:

  • Is advertising appropriate? Yes, we think so. Decisions are still being made about business locations and talent destinations, so by staying quiet for too long, you risk not being a part of the solution.
  • Be sensitive to the moment. Don’t include pictures of large gatherings and a lack of social distancing, or talk about the vibrant foodie scene. Maybe dust off those stunning scenic shots you’ve been holding onto for a while, and keep the messaging straightforward.
  • Know your audience. On the business side, many startups and small businesses are struggling, while large companies in select industries are seeing a lot of supply chain opportunity, so adjust your targeting parameters accordingly. For talent attraction efforts, laid off workers could have transferable skills for industries still growing in your community, and individuals in nearby markets could be especially open to relocation. I think we can all agree that helping someone find a good job opportunity right now is a positive.
  • Do what ultimately feels right to you. Internal compasses are very much guiding us all right now without a defined roadmap for a global pandemic. Some will get it right, while others will not, but if it feels wrong, go with your instinct.

Still unconvinced that advertising is appropriate? Understood. We strongly encourage you to use this time to improve your website landing pages, sharpen your SEO, develop engaging content and get to know your local companies better so we all come out of this stronger in the end.

Written By

Steve Duncan

Steve Duncan is Vice President of DCI’s lead generation division. Since 2004, Steve has managed marketing programs for a diverse set of city, state and country organizations, from Albuquerque and Houston to Tuscany and Wyoming.

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