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  • Writer's pictureDominic Williams

Copywriting in a crisis: Why clear communication is more important than ever

Even in the boom times, copywriters are undervalued. So when things get tough – global pandemic tough – is it any surprise that they’re often the first to go?

After all, we’re the people who make things sound nice. We pick up on grammatical howlers, give Instagram captions the Hemingway treatment, and add a lick of poetic paint to tired websites. When the business world is brought to its knees thanks to a global pandemic, it’s not necessarily our words that keep the lights on.

Even for people like myself and Dominic – copywriters and marketers who think as much in USPs and KPIs as semi-colons and Oxford commas – the going is tough.

But the thing is, now more than ever, communication is key.

We’ve already seen how copywriters have fired up their typewriters to create new messages and campaigns that speak of hope, togetherness and the straightforward pragmatics of operating during the time of COVID-19.

There’s IKEA’s timely call to “conquer the great indoors” with new soft furnishings and yogic pouffes; AirBnb’s comforting “we may be apart, but we’ll get through this together”; and Tesco’s simple but powerful spin on a classic: “now more than ever, every little helps”.

And then there are all those words that offer instruction, guidance and information amid these “unprecedented times”. Like the copy that tells people their position in the queue on the FarmDrop website, or Virgin Media’s company update on how it’s keeping its employees and customers safe.

Now imagine the copywriters behind those words, deliberating over how to communicate each message in a way that maintains the brand’s of voice, that stays sincere without being depressing, that gets people to buy or wait or stay away.

Because really, our job isn’t just to make things sound nice. The true value of good copywriting is in communication – it’s in helping people understand ideas that might be complex or scary or both.

And right now, few things are as important.

Not only do clear words build the trust and stability that customers are looking for, but a marketing strategy – no matter how stripped back – keeps you moving forwards even when everything else is slowing down.

It might seem superficially mercantile to talk about brands and sales during a pandemic, but we’re not talking about profiteering here. Marketing in the time of coronavirus needs to be about steadiness and togetherness, but also about change.

Many businesses will be using the slowdown to think about how they can make long term changes to their businesses. Whether that’s making smart working a permanent feature of their offices, expanding into home deliveries, or figuring out ways to make the community a more central tenet to their brand.

It’s the job of copywriters and marketers to communicate these changes in a way that not only sustains businesses but advances them. That might be through an email newsletter sequence, a landing page update, some targeted social media posts (if you’ve got the cash, you might even want to double down on ad spend). These changes don’t have to be big or expensive campaigns, but they should be clever and consistent.

For those businesses that can afford them, investing in communication is a strategy that can pay dividends. Because while copywriters and marketers might not be solely responsible for keeping the lights on, they do offer a torch in the darkness.

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