By Kudakwashe Mashero

Coronavirus (Covid-19) is a misfortune to the world and definitely not a fortune for marketers. It is vital to separate your marketing activities and Public Relations messages during this Coronavirus (Covid-19) period. You may assume you are doing it right whilst you are misfiring. Remember, customers nowadays are now more knowledgeable than before and your customer may be a marketer from another organization. Before your organization communicates anything to the public you need to fully understand the difference between Marketing and Public Relations. Public Relations exists to produce goodwill in the company’s various publics so that the publics do not interfere in the firm’s profit-making ability. Is there goodwill when we combine a ‘wash your hands regularly with soap’ and ‘buy one get one for free’ as one message? The two should be separated. Customers are asking if you care for them. What part are you playing in fighting this virus?

MarketingPublic relations
Marketing promotes the transfer of goods and services from the producer and provider to the consumer.Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.
Marketing’s immediate goal is sales.Public relations’ immediate goal is mutual understanding or positioning of the organization with its publics.
Marketing’s implicit goal is profit.Public relations’ implicit goal is positive perceptions and predispositions.
Marketing’s measure of success is the number of sales and/or the revenue it generates.Public relations’ measure of success is expressed public opinion or other evidence of public support.

Don’t use Covid 19 Jokes to promote your Product or service.

Common sense is quite uncommon nowadays – if we judge using social media. There are many times when companies pull back their advertisement or even compensate for saying an offending statement to another race or to an individual. That one error can cost a brand or a company. My advice is if your advertisement is making sense without mentioning Covid 19 please just do without it, before you spoil your brand. Currently, there is a controversial advertisement of Lays chips where it shows an individual sneezing in a stadium full of people. A global crisis is the time to be more sensitive; not less. Ask yourself if you are really trying to do good for your readers or your investors are your main priority. If the former is the case, great, click publish. If it’s the latter, and you want to achieve some sort of success by riding the train of the current crisis, maybe take a step back because Covid-19 is not a joke and think carefully about what that says about your brand’s moral compass.

Is your product or service helping to deal with the crisis? If not, step back.

If your product can offer a solution, then yes, now is the time to put your marketing team to work. Those companies and our tertiary institutions who can produce ventilators, the 70% alcohol based sanitizer and medical protective clothing, this is the period to do business profitably at the same time not tearing the pockets of the customers who are currently on lockdown and failing to work and raise money because of this situation. This is high time for health care service providers and medical aid companies to capture the hearts of the customers because people have increasingly become aware of these essential services. However, if your business has zero relevance to the current crisis, it is better stay on the bench for this time. (Stay at home and be safe)

Take advantage and advertise since everyone is listening.

Though it is important to note that advertising clutter does exist. This is the time to advertise. During this lockdown period the customer is not in a rush and would want to get informed on what is happening through all forms of media. An opportunity has been presented for marketers to virtually knock door to door, marketing products and services where you are sure everyone is home. At a time where everyone is shouting about their brands this is the time to shout louder and be heard by many people. On television adverts – go for prime time or news hour periods, on radio – follow your target market and shout where and when they tune in. 

If you can add value to conversation, continue to create awareness.

It is crucial for non-profit organisations, government, scientific research firms and even profit-making organizations who have crucial information to share with the general people so that everyone is aware of what to do and what not to do. If you have a product for remote work, then by all means, feel free to share your insights on the industry, and please, for the sake of us all, keep that content focused on objective value and not on self-promotion. If you have real insights or thoughts to share on the crisis, no one is telling you not to, but try hard to keep it focused on the readers and their needs and less on your company and your needs. All forms of mainstream media should strongly take part in creating awareness programs, a granny in the rural area should know that Covid-19 is a disease and not assume it is a new maize seed.

If your product is making life easier in a crisis, let people know about it.

A company does not have to develop a product that directly saves lives in order for them to become Covid-19 ‘Heroes’. A number of companies have reactivated their online services platform and door to door delivery services. This is a good move in this period. Though Africans have been perceived to be the last takers when it comes to tech savvy products, this time the customer has no option but to buy online. This is a great opportunity for companies to earn revenue virtually. If your product helps people and makes their lives easier, really in any way, then by all means, share that with the world. For those companies that are operating as the essential services providers – be open and transparent. Try not to capitalize on the misfortune of millions of people on the globe and put the customer first.

Kudakwashe Mashero, is a motivational speaker, passionate marketer, member of the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe. He writes in his personal capacity. Views raised here are not necessarily those of MAZ.