We’re in this together. Writing in a time of uncertainty.
By Maureen Connors-McBride, Copywriter
I was thinking about writing a blog post about 10 days ago (at the beginning of March).
As I struggled to hit my deadline, another topic was creeping into consciousness. At first it seemed like a distant news story mixed in the heaping cycle. Italian cabinet discussing proposal for coronavirus lockdown on a chunk of northern Italy – VP Mike Pence announces changes to the cruise line industry to fight coronavirus – 2 new cases of coronavirus confirmed in Ontario.*
We were reading headlines out loud in my department, almost in jest, in disbelief. We were talking about young people “risking their lives” to take cheap flights in the name of travel. It all seemed serious but still, distant.
As the days, even hours, unfolded though, things came into focus. Stock market volatility. School closures. Social distancing. Even Saint Patrick’s Day was canceled.
Then: remote work for the foreseeable future, backed up grocery orders, restaurant closures.
Originally, I was thinking of creating something about the world’s stage and copywriters are like actors. But that just felt tone deaf (and, honestly, not my best work, anyway).
I started reflecting on all the kinds of email ads I had been getting from brands that were doing the same things. Business as usual.
- Maureen, meet blush 👋| Wake up like ✨
- LAST CHANCE 40% off EVERYTHING: Final hours to save on your Spring wardrobe!
- 💚Opening This Will Bring You Luck ☘️
There were brands that had yet to postpone or adjust their messaging and just go through with their normal approach; hoping the messaging would resonate with at least a portion of their audience. This is advertising, right?
At the end of the day, brands need to sell their product, service, idea, etc. However, now more than ever, how do we focus on that balance between promotion and purpose?
Ford recently pulled its national vehicle ads, replacing them with a campaign that responded to this moment. Perhaps they can be a good example for others.
There are ways we can think differently and reframe how we, and our brands, communicate our message. This is a historical moment. We don’t want to regret not adapting.
So, I crumpled up my original idea and threw it out.
Now, in the face of something unprecedented, I’ve found myself compelled to write for something different. Authentic feels glib – it seems overused and cheap.
But, I know what I’m feeling right now. I’m uncertain, nervous, sometimes, even short of breath.
I’m sure I’m not alone when I ponder and cycle through the concerns. Do I have the symptoms? Am I being a hypochondriac? Lemme google it. And google it. And google it some MORE. I’m only checking my phone one. more. time. More cases in my area. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Quarantine and chill.
I’m too old to feel young anymore – but too young to feel like I have a wise, worldview worth sharing.
However, here’s my hope. For today. For tomorrow. For me, at this exceptional time, the right thing to do is to write with feeling. That gut-deep uncertainty? Explore it. Keep it in mind. Use that empathy and emotion to craft your messaging and campaigns. From this global connectivity and expansive cultural phenomenon, perhaps you can create in a way that can inspire hope, change, or hell, just a couple of laughs.
We all are uniquely in this together: Consumers, clients, neighbors, friends, and family.
As brands and advertisers, our communities want to know that we’re listening and experiencing this together as fellow humans. I’m listening. I’m in this with you. Keep writing.
*“March 7 coronavirus news – CNN – CNN.com.” https://www.cnn.com/asia/live-news/coronavirus-outbreak-03-07-20-intl-hnk/index.html. Accessed 20 Mar. 2020