Moments of uncertainty call for a clear, consistent message. For universities, being able to adapt your message with sensitivity and to add value is no mean feat, especially with the vast amount of information about the pandemic being circulated at breakneck speed. Here are some tips on how you can respond to the crisis, from messaging strategy to tone-of-voice.
All of us are looking high and low right now for clarity, not least students. They’ve just had the next few months (and possibly years) of their lives thrown into disarray by recent developments, so the need to be clear in your communications is paramount.
Concepts like self-isolation and social distancing will be new to most people, not just students, so demystifying them and speaking in more tangible terms can bring a sense of calm to your comms. Don’t bombard your audience with the buzzwords du jour, but rather give them clear, actionable advice.
“Practice social distancing and self-isolation”
“Stay at home, work there if you can. Only leave to get groceries or to exercise”
By making these terms more ‘real’, we take at least some of the fear of the unknown out of the equation, without undermining the importance of the act itself. And if our comms are clear and our message is simple, we distinguish ourselves as a remedy to the information overload.
Your messaging strategy should be adaptable, always. News on COVID-19 is changing quite literally minute-by-minute. Your ads written this morning could be rendered redundant - or indeed insensitive - by the afternoon, and so your copy will need to reflect this relentless change of pace and direction.
The need to be responsive has never been more urgent, which is why our Copy team are working business hours remotely, ready to reframe, rework and rewrite ads as and when needed. Already, we’ve adapted live ads with one client, shifting the focus of the campaign from business degrees abroad to the flexibility and indeed security of online courses.
We’ve even adapted an entire proposition, changing the narrative for one client from one of exploration of another country to rediscovering what you love about your own, and reconnecting with what’s really important. Responding to change in real time makes for real creativity. Embrace the chaos.
The truth of the matter is, you won’t have all the answers, and that’s actually, scarily, fine. And while universities are places of learning, the rapid changes in guidance and advice from the government mean that you’ll have to be humble as well as adaptable in your tone when speaking to students.
Now isn’t the time for grandiose, sweeping statements, and it certainly isn’t the time to be opportunistic or salesy. Instead, communicate that you are doing what you can, and that you’re there to support students when they need you.
Now is the time to align your messaging with the very best of your institution’s values. Community in the face of isolation, resilience, curiosity; there are so many shared attributes between you and your prospective students that can come to the fore during tumultuous times such as these. Steer clear of the nasty, wartime narrative and language that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the news. This. Helps. Nobody.
Oh, and also, while we’re word-nerding, we need to talk about ‘amid’...