Adjusting and adapting during a global pandemic

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Welcome to the Social Spotlight, where we dive deep into what we love about a brand’s approach to a specific social campaign. From strategy through execution and results, we’ll examine what makes the best brands on social tick — and leave you with some key takeaways to consider for your own brand’s social strategy.

Editor’s note: As we all navigate marketing during a global crisis, we’re re-focusing the Social Spotlight on brand efforts in the current climate to connect, sustain and grow relationships through social. 


As the COVID-19 crisis enters its second month on U.S. soil, both brands and their audiences are adapting to the new paradigm of interacting with one another. It hasn’t been easy, and there have been stumbles along the way, but we’ve seen a steady progression from panic to appreciation and thoughtfulness. Different industries have different challenges, and this week we’re sharing examples of how brands in the B2B, B2C, non-profit and higher education spaces have used social to keep their customers and audiences aware, supported and engaged as we all ride this out together.


Zoom, the video conferencing tool now being leveraged by thousands of organizations to facilitate meetings and webinars in the age of quarantine, had to get ready for its closeup with very little time to prepare. The brand has weathered some product-related issues over the past few weeks, but its social presence has leaned on a slightly offbeat, quirky “business casual” persona to develop an engaged community as its brand visibility continues to rise. The currently-active arrows in Zoom’s arsenal include social contests (best Zoom background, anyone?) and regular updates from CEO Eric Yuan to both address the security concerns that came to light as Zoom’s usage ballooned and to provide updates and tips for how to leverage Zoom in various use cases.

What you can learn: Be authentic and transparent about who you are

There are plenty of opportunities for brands to step into the social spotlight during a crisis, so make sure you’re buttoned up with your messaging, cadence and delivery before you leap. And when you can put an authoritative face to your message, it breeds trust and understanding if a whoopsie happens.


Peloton’s fitness-on-demand model was already perfectly positioned to thrive during the current work/socialize/parent/survive-from-home climate, and the brand could have leaned hard into growth and sales to take advantage of those of us stuck at home with our useless gym memberships. But instead of aggressively reaching out to new potential members, Peloton chose to reach back to the members who were there before it was necessary. The brand pledged $1M to cover the membership fees of members facing job loss or other financial hardship, reminding us that no one is immune to the crisis at hand and even luxury brands have social responsibility, should they choose to accept it.

What you can learn: Be one of the helpers 

As cultural luminary Fred Rogers famously said, when things are scary or uncertain it’s important to “look for the helpers.” Brands have an opportunity in these dark days to be the helpers we’re all looking for, so take stock of what you can offer your customers and audiences that can have a much-needed positive effect as they weather the unprecedented challenge presented by a global pandemic. If not goods or services, stretch the boundaries of your social content plans to include support, humor or connection. We’re all in this together, and we need each other more than ever.


As the country’s largest supplier of fabric and sewing supplies, JOANN is in a unique position to be one of the helpers described above–and to mobilize even more individual helpers through its social channels. Through its Make to Give mask-making campaign, JOANN has supplied the materials and plans for more than 40 million homemade masks to crafters across America, with an ultimate goal of 100 million masks made for front-line workers in the COVID-19 crisis. JOANN knew its audience of home crafters and small business owners would respond to its call, and the brand made helping as easy as possible by providing free, pre-cut fabric and materials for pickup at its store locations. Crafters take the materials home to sew into masks and drop them back at a JOANN location for distribution to those who need them.

What you can learn: People want to help. Find them opportunities to do so through your brand

Even if you’re not in a position to provide free supplies or make a sizable donation on behalf of your brand, you can still serve as the conduit between your audience and opportunities to help in their own communities. Ask for pledges of time, resources or even support and advice from your community to those in need, and don’t be afraid to lean on your industry expertise.

March of Dimes

As a non-profit that supports maternal and baby health and well-being, the March of Dimes is in a visible leadership position of helping expectant parents manage the stress of preparing or caring for a baby during the COVID-19 pandemic. MoD knows that pregnancy and childbirth are already full of anxiety and unknowns, but bringing a new child into a world struggling to maintain its systematic structure is especially harrowing. The organization has used its social channels to support pregnant moms and provide information about how to cope with the anxiety they may be facing. This includes both recorded and real-time access to experts, support and resources.

What you can learn: Use your understanding of your audience to address their specific anxieties and provide direct support

As brands we spend a lot of time tapping into the demographics and psychographics that make our audiences unique, so we can better understand how to align our offerings with the things they need and care about. Never has that been more important than right now, so put all that audience research to good use in understanding what specific challenges and stressors your audience is facing so your brand can offer relevant and useful resources, support and engagement.

Dartmouth College

Colleges and universities have some of the most diverse communities in the world, with students from myriad racial, national and socioeconomic backgrounds living and learning together in close quarters. Supporting all of them as they leave their most consistent common thread–life on campus–behind is a unique challenge, and one that Dartmouth College has met with transparency and a concerted effort to connect students as they manage not only the disappointment of an academic year cut short but also the adjustment to full-time remote learning.

My sister attended Dartmouth and my memories of its Hanover, NH campus, nestled at the head of the Appalachian trail, are of a quintessential New England campus of gothic architecture and scenic surroundings (and, it bears mentioning, the best apple pie in the world). Her experience as a student there was largely shaped by the physical closeness of the student community and the relatively remote location of the campus. This makes maintaining that community especially challenging for the Dartmouth social team, but one they’ve answered by making information and resources clearly available and continuing to provide support and connection to its students as they transition to life off campus.

What you can learn: Focus on ways the current crisis brings us together, even as we’re physically distant

People are slowly but surely adjusting their lives to fit into the resources currently available, from Zoom cocktail parties to virtual dance clubs. Social has always enabled individuals to find their like-minded cohorts, irrespective of physical proximity. Lean into that as a brand by looking to the ways your audience is connecting with each other and finding ways for your brand to help facilitate those connections, either through your own social presence or those of your high-profile leaders, brand partners or fans.

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