Singapore, a Southeast Asian country with over 5.7 million population, was among the first to report novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases outside China. As of the 25th of March, the total number of infected patients in the city stands at 558, of which two patients have died.
Part of the government’s immediate efforts to contain the spread of the virus has included temperature screenings, social distancing measures, isolation of potential cases, distribution of masks to the general public, and the ban of travellers from nations with cases of COVID-19.
On Tuesday, authorities have already ordered the closure of bars, cinemas, and other entertainment outlets as well as the suspension of all religious services. All centre-based tuition and enrichment classes will also be suspended to ensure the safety of students.
As further measures are taken to slow the spread of the virus and flatten down the infection curve, the city is at risk of facing a two-pronged crisis at unprecedented proportions: a global health threat and the potential risks of an economic downturn.
COVID-19 And Its Economic Impact In Singapore
Earlier news reported that Singapore downgraded its annual growth forecasts as the economy faces the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Ministry of Trade and Industry estimated an annual gross domestic product (GDP) to between -0.5% and 1.5%, down from its initial growth projections of 0.5% to 2.5%.
CNBC quoted the ministry in a statement saying, “The [initial] forecast was premised on a modest pickup in global growth, along with a recovery in the global electronics cycle in 2020.” But, given the situation, the COVID-19 has since affected the Singapore economy as well as that of China and many other countries.
Business Sectors That Are Most Likely To Be Affected By COVID-19
According to the ministry, among the sectors that are likely to receive the most impact include manufacturing, wholesale and retail, tourism, transportation, accommodation, and food and beverage industries.
Following its remarkable performance in 2019, the accommodation and food service sector are presumed to slow-down amidst the sharp turn in tourism and the imposing of travel restrictions in the city.
Similarly, the manufacturing sector is forecasted to experience a further decline, after its 1.4% downturn in 2019. The ministry also acknowledged the disruption of industrial operations in China will have an adverse impact on the Singapore economy.
With the overwhelming influx of news about the coronavirus pandemic and the interruptions it is causing, how can you keep the revenue flowing?
Moreover, how are you expected to communicate with your audience? Should you do business as usual or should address the situation at hand?
Part I: Communicating With Compassion
As a digital marketing agency in Singapore, we always talk about showing compassion and empathy for everyone—your community, employees, and customers. At the time of a virus outbreak, what you should be focusing on is how you would communicate the measures you’re taking as a brand. Promotions and announcements about a new product release may have to be pushed off for a while.
Initial Responses To COVID-19 Outbreak
Amid heightened fears about the COVID-19 outbreak, essential businesses and other establishments remain open in Singapore, although the city has already put effective measures in place and restrictions have slowly tightened in the past few days.
For instance, grocery stores are practising social distancing by marking the floor to indicate to people where to queue. They are also limiting the number of people allowed inside at a given time.
Such is an example of what you should update your customers with in order to manage expectations. Put out a statement if you are having changes in procedures in response to the pandemic, or if you are experiencing delays in shipment, or there are essential products that are currently out of stock.
Protecting Your People
While entertainment establishments are closed, restaurants, bars, and other businesses remain open but are expected to follow stricter social distancing guidelines.
With that being the case, you should have safeguards in place and a plan that outlines what your business will do in the event of an emergency. Some of the information to include in your plan are the following:
— Measures you are currently taking to protect your employees
— What you will do if someone in your company tests positive for COVID-19
— What will happen to your operations if your workplace is infected
Your emergency plan may also include alternative work arrangements such as work from home policy. Include information such as eligibility, procedures, and guidelines for the temporary setup.
Reevaluating Sanitation Procedures
Part of protecting your business, employees, and customers is the cleaning and sanitising of your facility, preferably more often, during this virus outbreak. Think about the measures you can take to keep your business as clean as possible:
— Have your business cleaned thoroughly and more often
— Provide soaps, disinfectants, alcohol, face masks, and hand sanitisers
— Take temperature checks for everyone that goes into your business
— Keep a sick employee from reporting to work
— Ask employees to disinfect their work areas daily
— Encourage proper handwashing
Taking the steps to keep your business as clean as possible will give your employees the peace of mind knowing that they are working in a safe environment and your shoppers the reassurance about in-store hygiene.
If your budget allows, you can also extend your relief efforts to your community. You surely have read how some global corporations are stepping up to help in the fight against coronavirus and even as a small business, you can do the same.
You can donate a portion of your earnings to an emergency support fund, send food deliveries to homes, or sponsor the procurement of PPE equipment, particularly for other countries that are also affected by the pandemic.
The aggressive and innovative measures Singapore has taken to keep the virus under control has allowed the state to avoid the kind of business disruption that could further wreak on the economy. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) lauded the city for its response to the pandemic and its efforts to find every case, follow up with contacts and prevent further transmission.
Providing Transparency Amidst An Emerging Virus
Communicating transparency to your audience has multiple advantages. From a consumer standpoint, it keeps them informed of any changes in your procedure, emphasises on where you stand on important matters, and creates a level of trust towards your brand.
Moreover, as people become more invested in the well-being of employees, a word on how your business is managing personnel at this time of crisis is essential.
It will give your shoppers the assurance that the money they spend on your business will help fund the livelihoods of people who could be directly affected by the pandemic. One way or another, there’s also some sense of pride in it.
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Although there are many details you can pass down to your customers, it remains essential that you remain considerate in what information to share, when to relay them, and the manner in which you communicate them.
When everyone is already flooded with information about the coronavirus online, probably receiving more updates than usual from brands that they don’t usually hear from, just how much is necessary to share?
Part II: Compassion to Cringeworthy: Messaging To Avoid
In a time of much uncertainty and fear, you have to be sensitive to the language you use in your digital marketing materials.
Even when it’s a great time to be online; encourage consumers to support businesses while practising social distancing, there are still certain messages that you should avoid.
You don’t want to be seen as a business taking advantage of the crisis and fear to push sales, do you? Therefore, while you can push products or messages online, you should be careful in crafting them in a way that is empathetic.
Think about how you can participate in conversations in a way that is helpful and supportive. Having mentioned that, the following are some good starting points.
Adjust Marketing Campaigns
First off, you should audit your campaign materials and see whether your scheduled content is relevant to the situation, regardless if it’s directly related to the coronavirus or not. Are your automated emails, scheduled social media posts, blog articles still appropriate, or should they be modified for the time being?
The same goes for your imagery. With regard to the situation, avoid visuals of crowds or gatherings in public. Those that don’t fall within the category can be pushed later in the year or when the crisis has finally subsided. If you’re working with an SEO agency in Singapore, they would be more capable of making certain tweaks to your copy so they are more empathetic towards the situation.
Help, Don’t Sell
While you think it’s a time lost to sell your products, you may want to reconsider how you can play a more positive role in the situation by using your products, expertise, or machinery to provide help.
In the Philippines, the Coca-Cola company has announced a move to halt its commercial ads for all its brands in the country and redirect its advertising budget of $4.2 million towards supporting the relief and response efforts during the COVID-19 outbreak.
This is just one example of how you can establish goodwill without ever making an effort to sell your products. In the long term, it’s what will inspire brand loyalty among your consumers, making them feel good about doing business with you.
Avoid Spreading Misinformation
As people turn to the Internet for the latest news, the last thing you would want is to be a source of fake news. Many times, the news we find online is not always reliable therefore, you should evaluate your sources and the news itself before passing it down to your audience.
The same goes for sharing irrelevant content on the impact of COVID-19. If there’s ever a time to avoid out-of-the-box messaging, it’s during a global pandemic. You and the audience you are trying to reach with your digital marketing efforts are dealing with a life-threatening situation.
The last thing they would want to hear is about your business or latest promotions—that’s unless, of course, if you’re directly involved in the disaster or in the efforts to provide relief to those who are directly affected by the novel coronavirus.
Don’t Assume That External Information Is Enough
Providing regular updates remains invaluable. Use reliable information and forecasts carefully to further understand what’s going on and identify what works and what doesn’t. You may have a contingency plan in place, but you have to be ready for unprecedented situations that may call for changes in your plan.
Don’t Capitalise On The Crisis
In this climate of worry and fear, do not capitalise on the crisis. Never use this as a marketing opportunity or otherwise profit from the COVID-19. Remember, the virus is neither something you can use as a hashtag that you can attach your brand to nor something you can use as a promo code.
We are facing a global health crisis that is affecting thousands to millions of people, some of them way more severely than others. If anything, the messaging that you put out has to be compassionate and give a nod to the seriousness of the problem.
A Message to Your Community: How to Market Responsibly During COVID-19
When every business under the sun has been putting out a statement about coronavirus, you wouldn’t want to send out something that your readers will immediately trash out without even reading it.
This deluge of statements raises a few questions you should remember during this crisis:
- Do you need a coronavirus statement?
- What should you share?
- Who should you share it with?
- Does it sound insensitive? Insincere?
- Are you sure you are not taking advantage of the situation?
As with any emerging crisis, there is no hard set of rules that could tell you how to communicate with your customers. But, somehow, this set of questions should help you navigate through the sensitive situation.
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Following these guidelines is not a guarantee of getting a great deal of reception, but they will definitely reduce your risk of getting a poor one. Now that you know how to craft your COVID-19 messaging, we move on to discuss the alternatives to deliver your promises and the role digital marketing can play during difficult times.
Part III: Finding Alternatives To Deliver Promises
With events and gatherings being canceled, the increasing barriers on in-person meetings, businesses across all industries bearing the brunt of COVID-19. Plus with no sign when we can start up again, digital marketing is going to be the clear winner here.
A key to resilience is the development of ongoing contingencies to prevent this loss and in this situation, it most likely means moving into social media marketing, content marketing, SEO, and SEM campaigns. The same holds true for businesses that have been slow to adapt to digital marketing.
If it is standard in your business to go out and meet potential customers, adapting could mean opening new channels over social media or hosting virtual events where introductions can be made and relationships established. It could be your most feasible option in times when your prospects are less open to the idea of meeting with you and shaking your hands.
How To Maximise Results In This Time Of Uncertainty
Shift To Direct Mails
Email is cheap and effective. While it may not make up for your performance losses, it remains a good way to remind your customers that at a time when it’s risky to visit your physical store, you can still provide their needs online. But, still, your goal here is to ensure your customers that you are here to help not to sell or promote special COVID-19-related deals.
Turn To Virtual Events
If you are one of the many event organisers that have canceled or rescheduled your events, an alternative you can do is to host a virtual event. There are many applications and platforms online that can help you run a digital event one being Facebook Live or Instagram Live. You can double up on this effort by expanding your conversations through online discussion tools or social media channels to allow participants to exchange dialogues before and after the event.
Continue With Your SEO & Content Marketing Campaigns
Whether paid or organic search, digital marketing agencies in Singapore are seeing losses in performance due to the overall drop in search demand. This is not an SEO issue but rather the result of everyone being so focused on COVID-19.
While it’s the case, however, we recommend continuing your efforts in SEO and content marketing, as usual, to maintain—if not improve—your SEO campaign.
Create Short & Long-Term Contingency Plans
It’s not enough that you have a well-defined communication policy. With the market being volatile, consumer behaviour being unpredictable, and businesses facing sudden fluctuations, it’s crucial that you layout short and long-term plans and revise them accordingly to the market scenario.
You can work under the assumption that the situation will normalise in the short-term. But, at the same time, you should also be contemplating your course of action in the long-term, considering all the potential outcomes of this COVID-19 outbreak.
Stay Safe, Be Compassionate, & Market Efficiently
We can’t stress enough that in a time of uncertainty, you should put your business objectives aside and prioritise the people that matter to you: your employees and customers.
Be kind and aware of the situation. If anything, you will be the first ones that these key people will expect immediate action from. Do it right and you will undoubtedly rebound quickly once this pandemic subsides. Until then, focus on your digital marketing efforts and their effectiveness.
How Bad Can It Get? Gauging The Impact Of COVID-19
No one can tell how long the global pandemic will last or how many more will become infected by this virus. What is known however is its impact on the Singapore and global economy.
It’s true that the coming weeks, months, years—or however long this situation will last—will be a challenging time for everyone, particularly those who do not act quickly to recover what they lost.
As you are confined to your offices or homes, use your time to think about how you can improve your digital marketing strategies. Sometimes, putting efforts into your digital channels could be as easy as giving your website or social media channels a refresh or better yet, realigning your goals with your SEO agency in Singapore.
A well-conceived, consumer-centric approach to content will remain effective not only in such difficult times but during regular operations as well.
What are your thoughts about the impact of COVID-19 on the business industry? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.