Lessons From the Coronavirus War Room

Today we share thoughts from Stelter Marketing Director Zach Christensen and Editorial Director, Katie Parker.

Forgive the lighter tone of today’s blog, but we happen to share an office called the Fun Room.

On Thursday, March 12th, we changed the name to the War Room.

Do you remember March 12? We were planning spring break trips—Katie to Illinois, Zach to Colorado. We were casual about our toilet paper stockpile. We greeted old friends with hugs. We ate messy BBQ at local restaurants.

Coronavirus had different plans.

The War Room name came about as the coronavirus was taking over the nation’s attention. As you may have already heard in Nathan Stelter’s video, on March 12, we stopped the Stelter presses (the literal print presses as well as the email queue) and attacked the virus with the weapons we had on hand—creativity and thoughtfulness. (Plus our guts, we always trust our guts.)

As we dug in, we spotted words, images and calls to action that had changed meaning.

Some of the items we found were titles, like:

  • It’s Contagious! How Giving Causes a Ripple Effect
  • Is Your 2020 Off to a Satisfying Start?
  • How Do You Want to Be Remembered?
  • Are You Sick Of…

They were innocuous in their original intent. They are tone-deaf, even radioactive as we reread them.

We called them our “Catches of the Day.”


The same was true for images. We thought differently of:

  • Business people shaking hands
  • Happy travelers with plane tickets
  • A stock market graph with a large arrow going up

The War Room was a chance to switch from marketer and instead play the role of donor. We asked, how does this feel when I read it? What mood am I in? Has it been framed in a way that feels meaningful right now?

Often we found that the idea of legacy and preparedness was more relevant than the week before. Now is a time we’re all considering our personal readiness for an uncertain future.

Russell James recently described planned gifts as your “plan B” right now. “During times of downturn and uncertainty, people are more likely to hold tightly to their wealth. Planned giving opportunities can help them ‘lean into’ this uncertainty.”

The War Room mentality has continued, even as our shared workspace was dissolved (*WFH Tip #43: You can never have enough blue Post-Its). Watching for today’s context means that material written yesterday needs a fresh eye.

Now, two weeks later, we propose that today’s tone-deaf marketing goes beyond radioactive words or images…it’s not mentioning Coronavirus at all.

Have you uncovered words or images that have changed meaning? How has your personal marketing consumption changed?

2 thoughts on “Lessons From the Coronavirus War Room

  1. […] In today’s fluid environment, flexibility in messaging is critical. Look at the language you’re using. Consider the mindset of your donor today. Before your messages go out, review them to ensure they are still appropriate for your recipient’s frame of mind right now—as some words and images have a different connotation now than they did a few weeks ago. (Here are some tricks to fine-tuning your marketing for today’s context.) […]

Leave a Reply