How to communicate in COVID-19 times: a checklist

How to communicate in COVID-19 times? We compiled this checklist based on the many COVID-19 conversations we had with our clients. Feel free to use it.


Short term

  • Check all running campaigns on unintentionally provocative content: wording, humor, visuals, etc. Avoid negative reactions.
  • Make sure that your messaging is in line with health recommendations. For instance, avoid campaigns that focus on physical human contact.
  • Pause running physical store traffic campaigns: drive-to-store ads, temporary physical retail promotions, etc.
  • Move the media budget from these store-traffic campaigns to long-term brand equity campaigns.
  • If the media budget can’t be canceled or moved, adapt the messaging.
  • Make sure e-commerce conversion campaigns can actually deliver purchased items. Lower or pause campaign budgets if stock or delivery might become difficult.
  • Focus on delivery options and be transparent: consumers expect possible delays, but they want companies to keep them updated.
  • Communicate about how your business is affected (opening hours, precautions, etc.). Proactively contact current customers when you expect business interruptions (e.g. monthly subscriptions that won’t be delivered in time or open issues that won’t be solved immediately).
  • Ensure customer support continuity: expect an increased demand for (social media) community management, call centre calls and e-mail follow-up.
  • Monitor website activity proactively to ensure that the server can handle visitor numbers. Avoid that your website goes down. Also, take away possible barriers and make sure everything works well (payments, mobile adjustments, etc.).
  • Have a communications team in place that stays up to date on government decisions and reviews all of the previous steps when something changes.


Medium term

  • Move budgets to focus on your brand: increase awareness, engagement, and brand value for the audience.
  • Opportunities exist for companies to have a positive impact on this crisis. But, only (!) if they add actual value to people’s lives. This is not the time for opportunism. Good examples are tips for home workouts or a free magazine delivered to your doorstep.
  • Set up a small communications task force that can develop new content if needed. Quickly adapt to new platforms and circumstances.
  • Temporary additional touchpoints might be necessary: extended opening hours for your call center, a chatbot, etc.
  • Draft various scenarios into a risk analysis. Define clear action points to help mitigate the effects of this crisis.
This is not the time for opportunism.

Long term

  • Rethink your 2020 plan. Which extra efforts will you need to recover from the crisis?
  • Align with operations before communicating expected timings.
  • Start with clear communication on renewed business. What can be expected in terms of store openings, product availability, delivery options, timings, etc.?
  • Rethink your upcoming brand campaigns. How have consumer needs changed? Do you need to re-create demand? Can you still use previous messaging?

Stay safe, and take care of each other.

Written by BBDO Belgium Team, We create effectiveness