For many of us, it’s far from “business as usual" these days. The current COVID-19 crisis has drastically altered the day to day routines of small businesses across the country, photographers being no exception. Canceled weddings, events, and photoshoots coupled with the inability to meet with clients in person have all caused a drastic shift in how we work and conduct business, what can feasibly be done during this time, and even how we communicate with clients.
Despite all of this, many of you have no option but to hold your head up and keep moving forward; the health of your business and finances depends on it. Although we don't recommend turning up the sales pitches right now, we also don't recommend going silent. Humans are social creatures and with so many people stuck at home, it’s more important than ever to stay connected and engaged with your clients and followers, but what should you actually be saying? Whether it’s posting on social media, publishing new posts to your blog or sending out marketing emails & updates, it’s important to stay active. It's just as important to take time to consider how your messaging will come across. Since this is such a unique situation, there aren’t really “best practices” to follow, but we wanted to share a few ideas and guidelines that may help you in thoughtfully navigating this new reality.
Go silent or lose touch with your clients and followers. Now, more than ever, people are using social media platforms to connect and find support. You have an opportunity to focus on strengthening relationships with your clients during this time. We actually have a free webinar coming up this week, “How to Protect Your Brand: Emerging from this National Emergency” with Trish Logan. Trish will talk with us about ways photographers can protect their brand, use their time wisely and strengthen connections with their customers by providing insight and solutions for families!
Run “business as usual” or pretend everything is normal. You don’t want to continue posting and communicating as if everything is normal. Too many people are struggling right now, worried and concerned for themselves, family members, friends, and their community. This is an opportunity to listen to your audience, show compassion and empathy for their concerns and provide a source of positivity, encouragement, and inspiration during a very difficult time.
Use social platforms to vent. You don’t want to be an additional source of negative information for your clients; they already have plenty of things to worry about. This is your opportunity to be a voice of encouragement, hope, and motivation to your clients and followers.
Keep posting but acknowledge the current situation. Take some time to reach out to your clients and followers and ask how they are doing; let them know that you can relate their current concerns. People are looking to social media and digital communications for positivity, support, community, and even distraction and light-heartedness (hence all of the toilet paper jokes…). If you can communicate with care and understand your audience, you have a unique opportunity to have a powerful positive impact on them during this time.
Provide Positive Value. It’s perfectly fine to share how COVID-19 is affecting you and your business- offering your personal experience can inspire and help others (if you remember to come from a place of hope and help). Sharing things that have helped you during this time and offering solutions and ideas can help your clients see you as someone they can look to for support and encouragement. Consider sharing some uplifting stories, positive initiatives, or passion projects you might be working on. If you don’t have anything current to share, look back through past projects to find something you’ve worked on that was inspiring to you; maybe you got to work with a charity or non-profit that was doing good in your local community or maybe you did your own fundraiser or event for a cause that is close to your heart. These feel-good stories can provide your audience with a bit of levity and a light-hearted distraction from the stress and worry they are inevitably feeling.
"This is important. Don't make it about you. Make it about them and you. Post some interesting images you took in the past and talk about people and other businesses helping those in need. We all need encouraging and uplifting stories during this crisis."
- Daniel Bruce Acker Photography, PPA Member
Pay close attention to tone. You want to strike the right tone; tone being the attitude of your writing or the perceived meaning behind your words. Be thoughtful in your messaging and strive to be positive and show empathy- empathy is powerful. Paired with the proper context acknowledging the current state of the world, you actually have an opportunity to strengthen the connection with your clients by acknowledging and relating to their concerns. If you’re struggling to craft messaging because you're worried about tone or context, think about how you'd convey the same message if you were talking to someone, then read the message out loud. Imagine how you'd read and react to it if you were on the receiving end.
If you still find yourself struggling to find the right words, Grammarly has put together some really great articles on navigating tone and voice in written communication to show empathy and appreciation while communicating from a distance.
Be authentic while staying true to your brand voice. This is not a time to look at what other businesses are doing and trying to follow suit or copy them. It is much more important to know and understand your audience, stay true to your brand voice and figure out what unique things your brand can do to help during this crisis. If you usually try to maintain a professional tone in your posts and communications, now is not the time to break from that and start cracking jokes and trying to be overly lighthearted. Instead, you can focus on other ways to offer support and value to your audience. Sharing a personal experience, advice on how you are coping or simple words of encouragement and kindness can be exactly what your audience needs to connect with you and your brand, relate to your experiences and feel that you understand what they are going through (while staying true to your brand!).
“...people on Twitter are switching between updates on COVID-19, while following elections, news, sports, TV & entertainment, and everyday lols. So long as you are thoughtful with copy and tone, you can contribute, and remember it’s better to stay in your lane and be true to your brand than to associate with the virus.” - Alex Josephson and Eimear Lambe, From Twitter “Brand Communications in Time of Crisis.”
Focus on engagement and connection. Technology helps break down barriers of distance, and in this case, of social distancing efforts. If you've never gone live on Facebook or Instagram or posted videos to YouTube or social media platforms, now is a great time to try! Videos perform extremely well on social media and your followers will love getting the opportunity to connect with you in a new way! Here are some ideas for videos you could try asap:
I also have tried to provide some unique content - for example, I did a photo bingo card for parents to use with kids stuck at home to help them kill some time, I posted a Zoom virtual background that featured a local metro park, and very tempted to launch a photo contest for the kids to help keep people entertained. -Jeffrey Tadlock Photography, PPA Member
Provide context if selling or promoting something. You may not feel you can afford to stop marketing your business, services, and products and you don’t have to. Just be sure to add context to your posts and communicate gratitude to your clients and supporters. They already know that you, like so many other small business owners, are in a precarious place and most of them will do what they can to help you. You will most likely need to shift the focus of your messaging. This might mean promoting the purchase of credits or gift cards for future photography sessions, printed products from past sessions, fine art prints or even educational materials for other photographers!
Find creative ways to ask for support. Remind your clients and supporters that they can help without spending money. Ask clients if they'd take time to write a review, or maybe they can share photos with you of printed products you've created for them that you can then repost on your own social media feed as visual testimonials. Remind your followers that liking and commenting on your posts and sharing photos from their sessions (and crediting and tagging you) go a long way in helping you get more engagement on social media.
Make supporting you EASY. No matter how you are asking for support, be sure it is as easy as possible! If you are promoting print purchases or gift certificates, be sure your online store is ready to go and easy to use! If you are asking for donations or reviews from clients be sure the process for donating or submitting a review is clear and easy to understand. Take the extra time on your end to make it as easy as possible for your clients and supporters to help you during this time!
Remember that social media isn’t a one-way street. In addition to posting engaging content on your own platforms, be sure to engage in the content being posted by your clients and others that you are connected with on social media. Jump in on conversations, support other small businesses and spread the social media love by liking and commenting on other people’s posts. If one of your clients or fellow small business posts that they are struggling, comment with words of support or even some ideas for them to stay positive! Consider ways that you can give back, help your community and show support despite being stuck at home!
Stay up to date and informed. People are looking for accurate & reliable information. Things are changing quickly, and it only takes one tone-deaf message to potentially ruin all of your hard work and well-intentioned communications. What might have been an appropriate message yesterday, may seem inappropriate today. You may not be trying to keep your followers informed on health stats or facts about the virus but it's still important to stay informed; keep an eye on the news and take a little extra time to consider the context of your messaging before posting, publishing and emailing. If you are looking for ways to spread awareness check out these communication tools from the CDC, pre-made templates like these from Adobe and Canva.
"I understand we're all taking a big hit with this COVID-19 forcing us to close our studios and cancel events. But we're going to get through this and when we all emerge on the other side, professional photographers are going to be there to help families rebuild by photographing and printing memories that will last a lifetime and even carry us through the next crisis." - Daniel Bruce Acker Photography, PPA Member
Just remember that we are all #InItTogether and we will get through this together. We hope this article inspires you to continue to connect with your audience during this time and maybe even find new ways to strengthen your current relationships. Stay smart, stay safe and keep doing your best (it IS enough!).
For updates on COVID-19 news and updates, information on government assistance, upcoming webinars, and educational resources be sure to bookmark ppa.com/inittogether