Let’s be honest: this is the most tumultuous time in 100 years—if not more.
As hospitals rush to meet the crisis, as governments race to find solutions, and as families and friends come together, business leaders face a unique challenge: how to keep their businesses running.
And as a business leader in a world turned upside-down, you’d be forgiven for throwing your hands up in the air and asking “What the f*&% do I do now?”
That’s exactly why we’re writing this.
Welcome to our new series, WTF Do We Do Now? Business in the Time of Corona. Each week we’ll help you navigate these unfamiliar times with insights and observations about how businesses are still getting it done. How strong brands are keeping at work.
We hope you enjoy our first article exploring the images we use when sending out COVID-19-related communications.
Hot Tip: You Don’t Need to Show Us the Actual Coronavirus.
How many emails have you received with a huge picture of the actual coronavirus? I’m talking about the big, grey orb sprouting fuzzy red hairs. You know, the one where it looks like The Moon is a redhead that decided to grow out its beard?
Follow-up question #1: What’s your gut reaction to this photo?
Follow-up question #2: Is that the gut reaction you want your customers, clients, and partners to feel?
You get where I’m going. If you’re the CDC, a news outlet, or a science-based business explaining the inner workings of viral spread, this may be the right image for you.
If you’re none of those things but instead a local business getting up-to-date info to your clients, partners, and friends, you may want to reconsider.
The truth is: while we all want to think of ourselves as savvy communicators, it’s easy (and understandable) to lose track of the little things as we’re trying to get information out quickly to those who care about our brand. That’s why, in the heat of the moment, it’s critical to take a step back before hitting send and ask: am I using the right image?
To be clear: there’s no need to sugarcoat this crisis or pretend that everything’s fine. But as with the tone of your email, consider the underlying message you’re sending.
What’s the Right Image?
So what’s a good image to use when sending out COVID-19 updates from your business? There’s no silver bullet, but here are two things to consider:
1) Set the tone you want. How do you want your clients to feel about your business when reading this email? Informed? Calmed? Confident? The right image, bolstered by the right design, will reinforce the message you want to drive home.
2) Make it relevant to your reader. As with the communication itself, consider your readers, their pain points, and the role your business plays in their lives. Is there an opportunity to provide comfort? Deliver reassurance? Perhaps you can even give them a laugh or a momentary escape from the real world.
A recent email I received from Squishable, a company that makes hilarious stuffed animals for kids and adults (yours truly included), captures these points perfectly.
The email leads off with an image of their vintage Squishable dog working from home—just like many of their customers right now. It makes us laugh, but it also meets us where we are and shows empathy, especially when paired with their subject line, So how are you doing out there?
Sometimes, The Best Image Is No Image.
Even if you know not to post photos of virus cells or people with gas masks when reassuring your clients that everything is okay, finding the right image can still be tricky. After all, there are a million stock photos of happy-looking doctors or safe-looking families. If used improperly, those can come off just as tacky or as tonedeaf.
That’s why, sometimes, the best image is no image at all. Brands from Toyota to Door Dash to WGBH are deploying emails with nothing but their logo at the top, then diving right into what you need to know. It’s a smart move, especially when you know your customers’ inboxes are already flooded with images they don’t want. Keeping it simple and straight-to-the-point is always a great way to go.
Finally, When In Doubt, Look to Shakespeare.
At the end of the day, you know your clients, customers, and followers better than anyone else. Keep them in mind every step of the way as you craft your communications, whether on social media, email, or anywhere else, and you’ll be fine. Like the best message, the best design is one that’s honest and comes from the heart of your company.
Nobody knows this better than old Will Shakespeare. So I’ll end on a quote from him to guide you as you share messages (and images) with the world.
“This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
—William Shakespeare (via Hamlet)
This is Episode 1 of Stirling Brandworks’ ongoing series WTF Do We Do Now? Business in the Time of Corona. Be sure to check back for more observations on the business world as we navigate these unfamiliar times.
Also, we want to know: what challenges is your business facing today? Where do you see other businesses going wrong? And what could we all do a little bit differently to help each other out? Shoot me an email at [email protected] or give us a call 781-369-5154. Let’s keep strong brands at work together.
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