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Should you stop all marketing efforts in the time of COVID-19?

We’ve all been taking a crash course in crisis communications over the past few days. The biggest question facing many businesses is: should we hit pause on all marketing and communications efforts?

The answer is: it depends. If you’re in an industry like food and beverage services, music promoters, tourism providers, etc., it is in the interest of public health that you stop encouraging people to gather. However, that doesn’t mean you need to shut your doors… it just means you need to get creative.

Take this example of the Nikkei Ramen-ya noodle restaurant in Courtenay, BC. In an Instagram post from March 12, 2020, they announced that they’ve changed their policy on take-out orders:

Current events… are suggesting people not linger in public for too long so, for our part, we will no longer secretly shame you for taking your ramen to go. In fact, from now until the Covid19 pandemic passes, we are waiving all take out packaging fees AND throwing in a free kaedama (noodle refill) with every take out ramen. Call (250) 897–4700, come get your food, and get out!

This is a perfect example of balancing the tightrope between taking the crisis seriously, protecting your business, and throwing in some appropriately dark humour.

As a contrast, an ad on the BMO personal banking page (that was taken down after a day!) claimed that BMO was working to “keep our customers safe.”

Can anyone truly claim that?


When crafting a strategy to help your business through this crisis, it is important that you avoid spreading misinformation, creating panic, or projecting a false sense of calm.

Now is the time to implement creative solutions that make sense for your business and your staff. Restaurants can waive delivery or takeout fees. Music venues can broadcast shows on Facebook Live and encourage members of the crowd to “emoji dance” in the comments. Exercise instructors can post videos of their workouts on YouTube. Cafés that remain open can post funny videos of these doctors doing the “handwash dance” on social media. There are options.

Here’s a checklist for your next steps:

  • Are there ways for you to limit public gatherings within reason? If so, can you continue to provide your services in ways that won’t endanger your staff?

  • Double check any scheduled social media posts.

  • Double check any running promotions or active ads.

  • Double check your recent social media history — have any of your posts minimized the risks of COVID-19? Made light of the situation? Depending on the engagement, you may want to “hide” or even delete these posts.

In addition to following the recommendations of health officials and encouraging your employees to do the same, take the time to assess your current communications and marketing strategies for risks and opportunities. If you need any help coming up with ideas, reach out.

Good luck, and keep washing those hands in hot soapy water!


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