Marketing in the midst of a pandemic sounds risky. Should you do it? Yes. This is why. The initial shutdown and ban on public gatherings put the events industry in a dire situation. While navigating what’s next, it was unsurprising that most marketing and communication abruptly disappeared. We are now three months into lockdown, and by now you should have a game plan (albeit a constantly evolving one). If you haven’t resumed marketing, now is the time to do it. The reason is simple. Even if you cannot provide your traditional services right now – a conference venue, stand design, AV, catering, décor, and so forth – you need to remind the industry that you are still here, and that you are ready to resume these services as soon as you can. You want to be top of mind for when this happens.

Money, money, money…

If budget is an issue, we have good news. You can maintain a digital marketing presence at little or no cost. For example, social media is free to use, and what we’ll focus on here. (If you do have some budget for advertising, that’s great news, as you’ll enjoy very competitive rates and deals.) Worldwide lockdowns have forced most people to stay home, work from home, and physically distance themselves from others. Unsurprisingly, internet usage has seen a sharp increase. Statista indicates that, as of March 2020, 45% of people in South Africa were spending longer on messaging services (such as Whatsapp and Facebook messenger) and 44% were spending longer on social media (such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). Hootsuite’s Global Report (Q2 Update) released in April shows a 50% increase in the use of social media in South Africa. It makes sense to take advantage of this growth in audiences for your new marketing strategy.
Hootsuite’s Global Report (Q2 Update) released in April shows a 50% increase in the use of social media in South Africa.

How to do it

It’s critical you don’t come off as tone deaf to the pandemic and the fallout it is having on people’s lives. This means you need to be thoughtful about your communication. However, we are all experiencing this and have first-hand knowledge to draw on. Nonetheless, here are some basic guidelines:

#1 Stick to facts

This one is simple and obvious, but it bears a mention. If you need to talk about COVID-19, stick to the facts and reference reputable sites. Always.


#2 Be honest, but also positive

Springnest and Eco Africa Digital gave a recent webinar on ‘Why now is the best time for social media marketing for tourism and how to do it’. They made the point that your communication needs to be clear, optimistic and honest.

During tough times, we need to hear positive messages. And as humans, we respond better to messages that make us feel good. Being clear and honest will also help you build trust with your audience. This means that when they are ready for business, they will favour your brand.

#3 Listen more

Convince and Convert recommends you listen more, and more closely, to your fans and followers and the people you want to reach. What are their concerns right now? What do they need, how can you help them? By understanding this better, you’ll be able to keep your messaging more relevant.


#4 Visuals

Deciding which visuals to use during a pandemic is tricky, especially for the events industry. You don’t want to show images which completely disregard current rules such as physical distancing and wearing masks, as this can come across as irresponsible. But an image of a lone figure in a mask and gloves is, unsurprisingly, sterile and uninviting.

It’s best to find creative workarounds, such cropped images which conceal people’s faces, or where products or scenery are the focus.

#5 Timing

Patterns of social media use have changed, along with our daily habits and routines. Keep this in mind when deciding when to post. Sprout Social has a great overview of this here. But, as always with social media, each audience is unique, so track your fans and followers so you can adjust your own posting accordingly. The tools to do this are inbuilt in these platforms, so use them. Good luck!