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Jessella Marketing Principal Robert (Bob) Bernarduci spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about how businesses can bolster their marketing efforts during challenging times—and prepare to return to “business as unusual.”

NAN PRICE: Why is it especially important for companies to continue their marketing and branding during the COVID-19 crisis?

ROBERT (BOB) BERNARDUCI: It’s important because everyone has to showcase flexibility and a level of patience and adaptability to new things. As brand evangelists, we recommend skillfully telling your story with sincerity, because it’s the most transparent and effective way to communicate with your audience. From a storytelling perspective, I think that shows good faith from anyone, whether it’s a nonprofit or a or a for-profit company.

NAN: Any specific tips?

BOB: At Jessella, we always recommend using “F-words” to position yourself in the marketplace. We call them the F factors—Face, First, Finances, Front Door, Fear, Fix, Feat, and Facts—and we utilize these as words now more than ever.

I’ll highlight a few key F-words that align with our current situation. The first is Face. With the COVID-19 pandemic, your customer is the face of this story. Rather than showing the attributes of what you have to offer, connecting with your consumer is more critical than ever—showing the faces of your customer using whatever product or service you have to offer during this huge change in culture and lifestyle.

The next F-word is First. Again, given the pandemic we’re in, our clients are dealing with new things for the first time and they need to have innovative responses.

I’ll give you an example in our work with New England Donor Services. The nonprofit was in the middle of planning its annual Blue & Green 5K, which usually takes place in April. They raised upward of $100,000 from this campaign in this event. What we did as a first for them was to showcase that this is the first time they were putting this walk online and creating a virtual experience.

Another relevant F-word is Fix. Everyone is looking for solutions to how we’re dealing with the current pandemic and how your customers can work through this. The fix is what solutions or changes can benefit your customer during this time?

The last F-word I think really pertains to our current situation is Fear. Many stories are selling fear and I think it’s imperative for us to maintain positivity and optimism during this time.

NAN: Can you recommend any do’s and don’ts?

BOB: Sure, I can break them out, too:

Do provide direct communication with your customer. The 80/20 rule applies even more so as part of the bounce back messaging. Present your revised service roles, retail modifications, and your new offerings to your loyalists first. Gauge core customer feedback and respond immediately and accordingly.

Do present your messaging with empathy and transparency. Revise messaging to acknowledge our new world in define your brands continued commitment to this new role.

Don’t let fear be the primary driver of your decisions. Change is a constant, therefore your marketing should be more fluid. Now is the time you should work to build trust in your current clients and customers.

Don’t ignore or put off analyzing your current marketing plan to focus on other “more pressing” issues. Now is also the time to disinfect your marketing plan and ensure your marketing efforts and messages are in-tune with the sentiment of those receiving them.

NAN: How are you helping companies position themselves as we emerge from this crisis?

BOB: I think it’s so important for us to start planning now what the recovery looks like—and what the comeback looks like. As we come out of this crisis, we can focus on a direction that will be celebratory. We are positioning our clients for renewal, resurgence, recovery, and for the future.

Our Comeback Communications Kits help with position, perspective, projects, and preparation for putting together a comeback campaign. Each kit is customized by market segments, including auto, hospitality, foodservice, medical, and nonprofits. The toolkits delve into plans for bounce back, how the culture and identity has changed for our clients, and how our customers have changed due to the pandemic.

Photo: Jessella Marketing Principal Robert Bernarduci and PR and Marketing Specialist Sara Westhaver on the field at a Hartford Yard Goats game.

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