There’s a big difference between marketing and communications, and it’s important to have both. First, let’s start with the difference in a work or business environment:
- Marketing, at its best, tells people how you help them solve their problems and make life/work better;
- Communication is sharing information.
In any organization, it’s critical to do both, especially in this new Coronavirus/COVID-19 environment, because federal and local executive orders include communication requirements. What confuses people now about marketing versus communication is the location (and intent) of these messages.
Let’s start with how business was done pre-internet. Before the internet, every organization had a physical location (even if it was based in a home); many start-ups began in someone’s basement or garage. Government mandated documents, such as employee notices (about safety in the workplace, for example), were printed and posted on the walls. While they may not have been especially pleasing to the eye, they were informative and fulfilled the purpose of sharing information with employees. In addition, there may have been printed documents they signed (often as they were on-boarded) or as needed.
Then the internet came along and organizations moved online, many without physical addresses (aside from homes or apartments) or office locations. The same regulations exist, with regard to government-mandated communications – so now where do you put them? How do you ensure that employees see them? And what about vendors? How do you ensure that the general public is aware that an organization is meeting requirements?
That’s where being online and having a website is key. While websites are typically thought of as “marketing” and, in fact, used for that purpose as well as a brick-and-mortar store, they also serve another purpose: they inform the public through additional communications. These include Privacy Notices – those legal documents you can find if you search in the footer of each website – as well as other legal requirements.
This is of particular importance now, in our new COVID-19 environment, because governments are mandating that each organization share information with the public about how it is meeting the new safety requirements. Here are some examples of how federal and local governments are getting the word out, and encouraging others to do the same:
Federal communications – the Center for Disease Control has posted recommendations for workplaces opening. These recommendations include a section called “Communications Resources,” with materials to share with employees about topics from face coverings to addressing those at higher risk for illness.
In Broward County, the Executive Order that was issued included the following “requirements” for local businesses: “Communicate clearly all plans and policies you develop regarding PPE, social distancing, and employee heath monitoring your staff, customers, vendors, partners, and other interested parties.”
Where’s the best place to notify the general public “customers, vendors, partners, and other interested parties”? Your website. Please note: this is a communication for the general public and is not marketing, since it is providing information (and fulfilling a legal requirement) and is not intended to draw people to your website or to your establishment. Rather, it is information they need in order to make informed decisions about visiting your location.
It’s important to be informed about your legal requirements at this time, as well as to be sure you’re communicating with the public about how you are being a responsible organization and, with your employees, about how you are watching out for their health and safety.
If you have any questions about marketing versus communication, please feel free to reach out and connect with me.