As I was attempting to maintain my normal pre-pandemic morning routine recently, a commercial caught my attention during the TV news break. Like many (most?) advertisements these days, it had emotional imagery backed by a peaceful instrumental with a reassuring voiceover talking about the challenges we are all facing today and how we will all get through this together.

Like I said, it got my attention; so I would like to assume the commercial was pretty well done. I stopped making my bed and yelling at the kids to get ready for “school” long enough to see who the ad was for, and what the call-to-action would be. A company that cares this much about humanity will surely be doing something to help us all cope with the depressing and scary circumstances the coronavirus has imposed on us all.

The ad was for a car manufacturer. The payoff? Their dealerships will continue to be open so we can buy their cars. Thanks guys! Now I can face another Groundhog Day with renewed optimism knowing you’re out there working hard to make the world a better place by continuing with business as usual.

Obviously their’s isn’t a new tactic. Companies have branded themselves as “interested in more than just your money” since the beginning of marketing. But in a time where we all need things that will inspire us to be the best son/daughter, spouse, parent, friend, employee/employer, citizen, PERSON we can be, soaring rhetoric with a sales pitch finale that hits you in the head with a dull thud seems especially tone deaf right now.

So what’s a business to do? We still need people, or other companies, to buy our services and products. We can’t stop marketing and selling. So how do we continue to grow, or at least stay afloat, while acknowledging the tragic events that have changed the world – without being trite or seeming disingenuous?

For our clients, and our own business, I’ve been recommending focusing on messages and tactics that are empathetic, authentic, and concise.

Empathy – no one REALLY knows what’s going on with this thing, right? We don’t know how long the pandemic will last. We don’t know when things will ever get back to normal. We don’t know what the ultimate impact will be on the economy or our businesses. The message we should be communicating to clients and prospects right now should be 100% focused on THEIR challenges, THEIR needs, and THEIR concerns. Now is not the time to sell on our agenda, but rather to support and build long-lasting relationships.

Authenticity – This uncertainty is very scary. It’s ok to be scared and even to tell your clients and prospective customers you are nervous about the future. If we’re truly going to be “in this together”, let’s start by being open, more relatable and focus on building those partnerships we always said we wanted to establish. Now more than possibly ever, people don’t want to be sold to. They will see through a marketing ploy disguised as an “important message”. We’re all experiencing personal tragedy right now in one way or another. Be human.

Concise – I think one of the reasons the car commercial made me so mad is because I’ve been feeling overwhelmed trying to meet the needs of my family, my business, and my own health and sanity these past few months. I have to be selective in how I spend my time and energy, and there is A LOT to consume every day. That commercial successfully sucked me in and made me hopeful for about 20 seconds. Then it let me down. Everyone is being flooded with content right now. Don’t waste anyone’s precious energy or time. If you can help someone, you should talk to them. But be brief. We’ve all got a lot more living to do.