I have a couple friends who have been keeping running tallies of the emails they’ve received from the CEOs of big corporations saying we’re all in this together during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these emails sound very tone deaf given the current circumstances, while others actually offer something I needed to know.

I suppose some people have been online shopping but hearing from the clothing store about how our safety is important to them is not all that helpful when people have lost their incomes. One email that did stick out was from our veterinarian with useful information about how they can treat our pets if necessary and how they will arrange drop off/pick up and treatment in the parking lot while practicing social distancing.

Here’s the lesson for email marketing in times of crisis. Send out that email:

  • If you have important information to share that affects how or when or where customers would access your services (and pay attention to website maintenance – make the appropriate temporary changes to your website).
  • If you are changing your services and operations to benefit a local group or charitable organization or society at large and are soliciting donations.
  • If you are no longer able to provide your usual services at all.

Do NOT send out that email:

  • If you think you should because everyone else is doing it, but your business hasn’t changed.
  • If you haven’t been engaged with a particular mailing list or segment – don’t use this time with a cold list.
  • If it’s not providing value to your audience.

Rebecca Sentence of Econsultancy wrote a useful blog on Coronavirus Email Comms: Do’s and Don’ts. She includes several examples of emails that were helpful and provided much needed information.

Other points to keep in mind as you start to compose your email:

  • Be careful of trying to use humor. It can backfire. Be sincere and straightforward.
  • Unless you really are an expert in pandemics (what are you doing in marketing?) point your readers to trusted sources. Don’t express opinions on policies. Build confidence by pointing to trustworthy sources.
  • Be smart about building brand awareness through content that is aligned with the current reality.
  • Mae Rice penned for BuiltIn.com an article Marketing During Covid-19: Why Every Company On Earth Is Emailing Us About Coronavirus suggests pointing to the future when things get back to normal.

There’s excellent advice from Email Monday’s roundup of advice for crisis email marketing. The authors suggest that marketers stay adaptable and examine marketing messages for relevance, tone, usefulness, and service. Acknowledge the crisis and adjust your tone. Another suggestion is to keep emails simple, with a human touch – try plain-text based emails and try to include spokespeople to add authenticity. Tell your story. Try to create a conversation, dialogue, and discussion with your prospects. Keep your messages shorter than usual.

Megan Reed shared “Should you send that COVID Comm” in the Women of Email community via her LinkedIn page.

Before you add to your email stack, consider the implications your email could have on your audience:

  • Do I have an ongoing relationship with this user base?
  • Can I segment this audience?
  • Do I need to say this now? Is it time sensitive?
  • Does this impact how customers are using my product?
  • Are people looking to us for leadership in this space?
  • Is there a risk in sending this?

And finally, if you’re looking for marketing advice and guidance, work with an agency with a long history of excellence.