How to Manage Your Email Channel During a Global Crisis

When is the last time you honestly stopped to consider your subscriber’s frame of reference before sending a marketing email? I mean, really thought about it?

We all have numbers to hit and promotions to ship.

But during a crisis, these things don’t matter.

What matters is empathy.

What matters is being considerate.

What matters is that we’re in this together.

Meet Subscribers Where They Are

People are panicked. As we all try to care for our loved ones, maintain our livelihoods, and acquire the necessities we need for everyday life—the context in which we live our lives has fundamentally changed over the last several weeks.

Folks are struggling to meet their most basic needs, and how we communicate must change to reflect that reality. With email or any other marketing channel, brands must acknowledge the broader context in which they are doing business.

To blindly follow the pre-crisis marketing plan demonstrates a lack of empathy for the customers you serve. Mis-steps during a time like this can and will have adverse long-term effects.

Slow down and put your customers first.

Brand Examples

As consumers, we’ve all received COVID-19 email updates from our favorite brands. Some have felt good, and some haven’t.

Here are some well-done examples that have striven to create a sense of safety and reassurance:


From: Rhone
Subject Line: Not Another COVID-19 E-Mail

  • Adds value for their subscribers with helpful tips and recommendations.
  • Rhone uses blocks to link to their COVID-19 steps and recommendations allowing the reader to decide what they want to know more about.

The Sill

From: Eliza Blank, CEO of The Sill
Subject Line: A letter to our plant community

  • The Sill uses this email to creates an emotional connection through copy and tone.
  • Here, their CEO steps forward with how she is experiencing the crisis—meeting their subscribers where they’re at.

Alex Mill

From: Alex and Somsack
Subject Line: So, What’s Next?

  • Alex Mill’s email is very sincere “It feels weird to be promoting clothing right now.”
  • It’s not all doom-and-gloom and encourages their subscribers to stay positive.

Emily McDowell & Friends

From: Emily McDowell & Friends
Subject Line: This week has been a really long year

  • This is another example that creates an emotional connection by sharing a personal experience.
  • We really like that it’s creating a creative virtual self-care get-together for their customers.

Reassess the Plan

Successful marketers strive to establish and execute a preplanned calendar of content and promotions. It’s time to reassess and ask yourself, “Does this plan make sense, given the circumstances?” These decisions are going to be day to day, dependent on how the world is doing.

If the original plan doesn’t feel right or lacks context, put it on hold for now.

Avoid Mistakes

  • Review all of your automated emails and remove messaging that doesn’t align with the current state of the world. Consider removing time-limited offers and urgency-inducing copy. These things may sound acceptable under normal circumstances but are perceived as tone-deaf during moments of crisis. Don’t add more chaos to people’s lives.
  • Avoid making light of the situation by referring to ‘shelter in place’ mandates as anything other than what they are.
  • During times of uncertainty, default to asking yourself simple questions like, “Does what I’m sending out add value to my customer’s life in the context of what’s happening in the world?” or “Does this content answer the most urgent questions that my customers have right now?”  If the answer is no to both questions, don’t send it.
  • Be careful with light-hearted “distraction” content. When folks are uncertain about their basic needs, your attempt to distract will be unwelcome.

We’ll keep this post up to date as we come across other examples of what and what not to do. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and each other.