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Shortly after I became a copywriter (and landed my first job), the recession of 2008 hit. 

Surprisingly, that actually made my job easier. Because…one of the greatest copy challenges is creating headlines that get your emails opened. Every time we used the words “recession” or “stimulus package” in the subject line, we saw a huge boost in open rates. 

And it bothered me. Because it felt like such a cheap shot. 

My boss was awesome. When I took my concerns to him, he was willing to try other ideas. 

Over the next couple of days, I wrote dozens of subject lines. We split tested a lot of them. But, without fail, the open rates for subject lines with “recession” and “stimulus package” skyrocketed past my best alternatives. 

Twelve years ago, I was young, inexperienced and didn’t understand. 

Today I do. 

As a business owner, as a mom, the one constant on my mind is COVID19 and its effects on my family and business. I keep reading articles about it, even though nothing new is surfacing. Because that is how, in a technological world, a lot of us deal with stress. 

So…should you use Coronavirus content in your marketing? 

Go for it!

But can I make some suggestions for how to do it? Because if you do it wrong, you’re gonna come across looking like an opportunist. And that won’t do you any favors.  

This is a Facebook post from a fellow copywriter (someone I wholeheartedly endorse for custom copy work) Myrna Schommer

So how can you do this the “right” way? 

First: Educate. 

People are scared. They want and need someone to reassure them all will be well. You can be that person. 

Use educational emails to build your relationship. Emails like the one you’re reading. 

If you own a bar…send out videos showing people how to mix their own drinks at home. If you’re a chiropractor…send videos showing people proper stretching techniques. If you’re an educator, send out an email letting parents know which educational sites are free for kids right now.

You don’t have to go overboard. Maintain the calm, benefit-rich copy style you’ve always used. For example, your subject lines might look something like this: 

“While you’re quarantined, here’s how to mix drinks at home” 

“[Video] How to manage back pain until things return to normal” 

“Free educational sites to keep kids learning until school starts”

And your email can start something like this: 

“Well Friends,

It looks like we’re all going to be hunkering down for a while. Since you can’t get to me, I’ve pulled together a few resources to help you [WHAT YOU’RE HELPING THEM DO] while we wait for the crisis to pass.”

Be the expert who is level-headed and generously connecting with your contacts.

Second: Continue as Planned

I have to admit, this one has been tough for me. I usually follow a 3-2-2 rule for posting on Facebook (3 promotional posts, 2 educational posts, 2 engaging posts). But for the last couple of weeks, I haven’t posted anything promotional. 

(Fixing that today.) 

Whatever your plans were for selling this month, stick to those plans. But switch up your copy so it doesn’t come across as being desperate, sleazy, or “out-of-the-blue”. 

For example, were you planning to run a St. Patrick’s Day promo? Run it. And maybe start your emails with something like this: 

“I love St. Patrick’s Day. Always have, always will. Which is why…we had an exclusive St. Patrick’s Day offer planned for you. 

Given the events of the last few weeks…we’re gonna stick with our plans to offer you: 


And because everyone could use an extra boost right now, we’re going throw in [BONUS] when you buy within the next 24 hours.” 

Here’s a great example of this from Donald Miller (Storybrand): 

An event was planned. He’s moving forward with it. But simply running a promotion to get more people signed up. It’s great! 

I highly recommend you don’t create a special promotion specifically around COVID19. Not unless that promotion means FREE resources while everyone waits this out. 

Third: Increase Your Frequency

Most people have no idea how many emails they receive in a day. They open the ones they’re interested in, delete the rest, and don’t give it a second thought. 

I do. 

And that number has dropped off significantly. 

Social distancing does not mean “stop communicating.” Most adults are going to be online for the next few weeks. More so than normal. Which means, you have an opportunity to build that relationship and stay top of mind for when things go back to normal. 

Consider sending more emails instead of less. 

Obviously, there are some exceptions. I’m home with my kids. And just writing this one email, I’ve heard “MOM!” over a dozen times. (In most cases it was to “watch me do this trick.”) If it’s not practical to send out more communication, that’s okay. 

For the rest of you…be present. Even if your business is shut down right now. (And perhaps especially if your business is shut down right now.) 

Fourth: Get Creative

Particularly if you are following our third suggestion. 

You can’t just send stuff. Your content always needs to be meaningful and valuable. But if you want to capitalize on what’s happening, you’ve got to add a level of entertainment and/or high interest topics in your communication. 

We’re all going to be isolated for a very long time. (Two weeks is going to feel like a lifetime.) Find new ways to engage with your contacts. 

I am considering Open Office hours this week. Which is something I’ve never done. 

And here are some other ideas (based on the industry examples I gave you above): 

  • In the case of the bar owner, ask your contacts for photos of their at-home mixing efforts. Better yet, ask people to post pictures on your Facebook page showing why they miss your bar. 
  • Put together a funny video on how NOT to stretch. Or “when you know you’re not stretching right.” 
  • Send memes of what educators are doing to “combat the Corona Virus”. 

Try to make sure every encounter your contacts have with you is a positive one. How great would that be for subconscious programming?

I, like many of you, would love to bury my head in the sand until all of this goes away. But don’t. It won’t do anything to help your business. Press forward. Stay the course. If it makes sense, incorporate the events of the last few weeks in your marketing.

And everyone…stay safe!

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