As we have all become too well aware, COVID-19 has been a major disrupter. On every level, we’ve all had to adjust our approaches on everything from internal management to connecting with our audience. And now that associations and nonprofits are re-entering the market and settling into a new normal, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about how to deal with the continued changes COVID has thrown at us. Many companies are dramatically changing voice and tone to impress their audience, but will that help your credibility in the long term? Not really. Before you make overnight changes to your association, consider opting for a more conventional approach – being authentic and honest.

Adjusting Your Messaging

In the early days of the Coronavirus outbreak, we saw many advertisements pivoting to messages about “these uncertain times” and showcasing how much brands care about their customers. But as we slowly reached a gradual state of re-opening, these emotional messages were quickly dropped for phrasing more reminiscent of pre-COVID ads. This might sound like the sensible thing to do; get back to a business-as-usual mindset to recreate a sense of normalcy. But this leaves your audience feeling bewildered and betrayed. A recent Forbes article looked into this trend of Covid-messaging and found it: 

“…led to customers wondering why brands felt compelled to reach out without understanding what they were and weren’t looking for from brands in these times of great uncertainty, anxiety, and fear” (Solis, 2020).

If these brands cared so much about health and safety, how could they so quickly shrug off the concern and expect people to attend packed trade shows and conventions? Your audience is more than just a set of data analytics. If you’re going to make an emotional appeal, those emotions need to be respected and addressed as they develop and change over time. 

Acting In-Line With Your Values

 So what’s the best approach to engaging with your audience? The answer depends on how your association has positioned itself. If your association has a history of being more reserved in its media, then a formal statement addressing your response to the Coronavirus pandemic is appropriate. If your association is typically more relaxed in tone and has frequent engagement with your audience, then a small statement along with a digital Q&A session could ease minds and build trust. The key is picking an approach that is consistent with how you’ve addressed your audience in the past. As long as your nonprofit is authentic in its message and mode of messaging, your audience will trust you and be willing to weather the circumstances with you.

But what if your association hasn’t been consistent in how it addressed COVID-19? In that case, open honesty will go a lot further than trying to obfuscate previous messaging with updated material. By humbly addressing that your association needed to change how it communicates during the pandemic, and more importantly – stating a plan it will follow going forward, you will create new opportunities to build trust with your audience. If you’re unsure of where you stand, consider running a content audit for your social media to avoid “promoting content that might be perceived as tone deaf, out of touch, or off-putting” (Harris, 2020).

Whether your association is currently starting its re-entry process or currently navigating the new landscape, the best way to regain, maintain, or grow your audience is to create honest and authentic messaging that resonates with your intended audience. And regardless of where your nonprofit is on that spectrum, TVD Associates can help you create a plan that will help you succeed amidst COVID.