Senior marketing execs share advice amid the coronavirus pandemic (Part 1) 

Senior marketing execs share advice amid the coronavirus pandemic (Part 1) 

The past few weeks have been challenging for virtually every business and industry across the globe, as the economic impact of the coronavirus starts to bite. 

At a time when businesses reassess their priorities and long-term plans are being thrown out the window, marketing and PR teams are looking to navigate how to best speak to their key audiences – and do so carefully, considerately and empathetically

As brands navigate their strategies and programs during COVID-19 as best as they can, Gravitate PR asked a number of savvy, senior and seasoned marketing executives for their thoughts on what’s changed in the last month. The execs we talked to work at a range of brands  – from deep tech enterprise companies, bootstrapped startups, to firms targeting consumers – and include Chief Marketing Officers, digital marketing experts and startup advisors.  

Next week, we’ll be posting another article sharing advice from these execs on how to approach marketing programs. 


Question: How have your marketing priorities and programs changed in the last month? 


Brett Chester, Vice President of Marketing, Sitetracker: We are fortunate to be working with teams that are classified as essential services. Our telecom customers are seeing increased workloads which is a positive thing for us. But, typical channels are no longer the norm so we have shifted our attention (obviously) to remote events (from in-person ones), and started mining our database more heavily. We have also started driving more from a content perspective and are actively working on tighter inter-team integration to ensure nothing slips between the cracks.


Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, President at Lytics / Startup Advisor: It’s hard to comprehend the amount of change each of us, and our customers, are going through in both our personal and professional lives. The first priority is to our family and loved ones and once we’ve identified our needs are met, it’s time to turn to others you may be able to help, your customers included. As I look at Q2 and Q3 and contemplate what marketing programs might be best for business, I’m keeping the following in mind. Look inward first when developing any kind of programs for the next few quarters, invest in those that focus on your customers before anything else. Customer marketing programs should be designed to reinforce what you can do to help them be successful or solve a problem they have, right now.  If you don’t have a well thought out customer marketing program, stop what you are doing and start there first. Investing in your customers success will help ensure yours.


Cindy-Anne Lewis, Director of Marketing at Altran & Lohika: Our marketing programs have changed in the following ways. Virtual events are well-suited to the “at home” worker and help organizations educate and engage the same audience they were expecting at their physical event. We turned our physical events into live digital events, webinars, live Zoom coffee chats and podcasts. Now more than ever we have embraced organic platforms such as social media to show empathy as well as keep our brand top of mind. 

We are not driving as much lead gen, as it can often be portrayed as taking advantage of a crisis. It is, however, now more important than ever that our brand stays relevant and top of mind during this crisis, and it’s important that we pivot but at the same time not lose momentum as once that momentum dries up it could take months to rebuild. Finally, we are using paid digital marketing to drive brand awareness and still reach the audience and market virtual events and  have invested in webinar tools and sponsored various podcast and industry-specific virtual events.


Emily Maxie, Vice President of Marketing, Very: Our priorities seem to change daily as the pandemic evolves. We had planned to sponsor several conferences in the first half of the year, and they’ve all been canceled or rescheduled. We’re pivoting to host virtual events, and we’ve seen success with that strategy so far. We’ve also shifted our content strategy. As a 100% remote company, we have a unique perspective to share with our audience, and we’re focusing on creating valuable content that can help those who are new to remote work through this difficult time. 

It’s also important to remember that your target audience is going through a lot, just like you are. They might be worried about their jobs or about whether their business will survive this. The last thing they need from you is a generic nurture email trying to get them to buy your product or service. For that reason, we’ve completely turned off our nurture email campaigns until we’re on the other side of the pandemic. 


Bill Odell, Chief Marketing Officer, Aerospike: First, in a time where so many people feel at risk, both from a health perspective and a financial perspective, we are tuning our marketing messages to be more empathetic to address where our target customers are at the present moment.  We don’t feel this is a time to be overly promotional, rather it is the right time to be more supportive and to try to help customers in any way we can.

From a programs perspective, we are taking this time to focus on helping customers get the most out of their current investment and to showcase how we can help them reduce overall CAPEX and OPEX.  Companies are being asked to re-evaluate projects and find ways to reduce costs while maintaining investment in projects with positive ROI. We are focusing our programs on those areas.


Anthony Cain, Senior Director of Digital Strategy, Denizen Company: In a nutshell, the entire consumer landscape changed seemingly overnight, and we had to go back to basics with some of the brands we represent to really evaluate the role they can and should play right now. This included a full audit of all upcoming campaigns and ongoing brand comms so that we could determine how much of it was adding to the conversation and what was just extra noise. The ban on public gatherings also meant the delay or cancellation of bigger consumer events they were looking forward to, so we also had to be cognizant of how that fits into our next steps. Utilizing an editorial approach to brand comms, we drafted plans for what they should post, when, and how we were going to continually assess the reception of this strategy in case we needed to scale back or pause completely. There have been ups and downs based on the escalation of the situation domestically, but our nimble approach has allowed us to move swiftly and effectively when needed. At a high level, our consumers are navigating a new world right now, so our ongoing focus will be to provide levity and celebrate the things our community loves—a love letter if you will. If this situation can teach us anything, it’s how to really listen to consumers and hear more than just marketing insights.

Lisette is the founder and president of Gravitate PR. She started her career leading regional PR strategy and campaigns for some of the world’s biggest technology brands, and in recent years has honed her craft in partnering with startups primed for their next stage of growth. An award-winning PR professional, she has worked on dozens of M&As/IPOs in her career.

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