What to say “In these times”

What to say “In these times”

The challenges of communicating during the pandemic
Andee Wilcott

“In these uncertain times”

So starts another commercial, with more somber piano music. The words already feel cliché. Over the past few months, the world’s brands have made hard pivots in their advertising campaigns to address the pandemic while still trying to sell their cars, burgers, insurance, and the rest. The themes are so common that digital marketer Sean Haney made a supercut of the similarities between the ads:

“I hope this email finds you safe and your family well.”

Email after email sent and received expresses a similar sentiment. It is the language we have communally and reflexively adopted to show empathy while also following up on that request or hoping to pitch that new project.

As business owners, employees, and marketers, we’re all trying to find our balance. How do we communicate with each other effectively when there’s so much uncertainty? How do you approach people in a business context when you’re suddenly unsure how a remark, request or joke may be perceived personally?

I’ve struggled greatly with how my communications may be perceived. The perfect example is a piece I designed to send out in our newsletter, brought on by the same tired clichés we’ve seen in TV ads the last couple of months. I thought, “wouldn’t it be funny to create a Bingo card of all these sentiments we keep hearing over and over.” So I got to work writing down all of the clichés, organizing them on a Bingo card design, and crafting all of the little illustrations to accompany each square on the grid.

When I was about 90% done with the piece, a wave of fear and doubt washed over me. “Is this in poor taste?” I thought. Would someone perceive this as me making light of the pandemic? Could I inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings with my sarcasm? That was the last thing I wanted to do.

I sent up some trial balloons by first mentioning the idea of the piece to a few people – a Bingo card pointing out all of the overused things we see and hear in TV commercials these days. Everyone reacted positively. They thought it was funny. I had two people with whom I’m particularly close review the piece itself. I wanted them to let me know if anything struck them the wrong way. I received thoughtful critique on a couple of the illustrations and some layout elements. Overall, people I trust thought it was a good piece and was funny. So here it is, we hope you like it:

TV Ad Bingo

As we continue to deal with upheaval in our personal and professional lives, our usual communication styles have naturally become a bit more guarded and we’re second guessing ourselves more. This is completely understandable, and not necessarily a bad thing. We should be thinking more critically about how we communicate with one another.

We should review what we write for context and to make sure our best intentions come through clearly. We should try to use humor to elevate rather than condemn. And we should definitely seek out opinions from the trusted people in our lives when we feel our compass might be off. Ultimately, we should apply more care to what we say, how we say it, and who we say it to. Not just now, but always.