Photo by AronPW ~ above UnsplashAs marketers, we invest a many time carefully selecting our words. In composing the perfect pitch for a PR client — or writing an article here on tool — words space important. And also in fields like SEO — or because that marketing on YouTube and also other search-focused platforms — choosing the proper keywords deserve to mean the difference between content acquisition off and also sitting idle.

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To me personally, words space important, too. My background is in Cognitive scientific research and social Anthropology, through a focus on grammars in both fields. I have studied language from both the neuroscience and social sides. And also at Johns Hopkins University, I invested a happy year analysis and evaluating every indigenous in the 2008 Financial situation Inquiry Report in all its 662-page glory. So in a crisis, I’m automatically curious about the words civilization use to make feeling of your experience.

Faced v the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, it deserve to seem impossible to uncover words to describe what the people is walk through. What we’re facing, collectively, is something many of us have actually never dealt with prior to — the danger of contagion, the difficulties of a quarantine, and the opportunity (or reality) of significant losses, both in human being terms and also economically.

Yet at the exact same time, particularly as marketing professionals and leaders that businesses, we’re asked come communicate clearly and effectively around the pandemic — what human being should perform to respond, what our own companies (or clients) room doing, or even what we’re emotion on a personal level.

In plenty of cases, we finish up making use of the very same words over and over. This have the right to be either good or bad. The native we choose can follow fads that customers start to recognize and that put us in line v others in our fields. Or, lock can end up being so generic the they lose meaning — something no leader also wants come see take place to their very own messaging.

Using Google Trends and also other tech tools the look at words throughout a large swatch that internet task and released books, ns analyzed just how some COVID-19 words and also phrases are being used and how those uses have readjusted over time. Drawing on my sociology background, I additionally looked back at a vault pandemic to view what words were used to explain it in ~ the time, and also how today’s words different —or remain the same.

Especially in a crisis, words matter. By looking at exactly how others space describing COVID-19, us can obtain a much better sense of as soon as we have to use standard, acquainted phrasing and when we require to connect in a means that sets our companies and also ourselves apart.


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Usage has fallen off recently and also is proceeding to tendency downwards. This says that the word might be seen as overused, or the the current situation in the civilization has persisted for long enough that customers room no much longer seeing COVID-19 together “unprecedented."

The criterion for this week under quarantine may now be critical week under quarantine — the civilization has been radically altered for long sufficient that ours current instance is start to feeling normal.

That assumption is borne out by the data. At the same time that “unprecedented” began to trend downwards (around march 20, when lockdowns started in earnest in the unified States), the phrase “new normal” began to trend upwards, a trajectory that’s continuing.


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Perhaps the civilization is beginning to see the pandemic as something that needs to be integrated into our resides over the long term, not a sudden and also short hatchet shock.

As a marketer, if she planning brand-new communications in the time of the coronavirus, you may want to emphasize the present moment, quite than compare the existing to the previous with words favor unprecedented. Her staff and customers are living through the day and trying to find meaning in their new, radically transformed lives — your interactions should acknowledge and address this.


The phrase “COVID-19”

Let’s likewise take a step earlier and look in ~ the general term “COVID-19.” as one would certainly expect, the term surged in popular right about when it was introduced on February 11, 2020. The quickly came to be the fastest term ever to be incorporated into the Merriam Webster dictionary.

It also reasonably quickly stamped the end the term “Wuhan coronavirus,” which was the name numerous officials used to define the virus till COVID-19 was officially named, and also which had actually been beginning to trend in mid-January.


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“COVID-19” is starting to peak and trend downwards. People today might be looking for particular impacts the the virus, quite than looking for info ~ above the virus itself.


“Difficult Times”

As marketers, our messaging can obviously still reference the virus by name. However we might want to focus more on the broader impacts and disruptions 보다 on the details that the virus itself because that shows up to be whereby the world’s emphasis is turning.

The time for thorough discussions of your company’s sanitizing procedures and also PTO policies has passed — it’s currently time to emphasis less ~ above the particulars the the virus and much more on how it’s affecting her customers’ and employees’ lives.

The paragraph “challenging times,” “difficult times,” and also “uncertain times” are increasingly showing up in corporate interactions addressing the virus’s impact, native Hyundai ads to consumer updates from companies like constant Contact. This is a malfunction of the usage of these 3 phrases over the critical 90 days.


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“Difficult times” is the most popular phrase, followed by “uncertain times” and “challenging times.” All 3 phrases started to optimal in usage in mid-March, and they have due to the fact that stayed at around the exact same levels or space trending downwards.

All of this phrases have actually been used extensively, becoming an easily recognizable shorthand because that the COVID-19 pandemic. Because that your own messaging, that might be a great or negative thing. If you want to produce messaging about the virus however don’t want to cite it by name, consisting of copy like, “In these challenging times…” is a method to clue her audience in to the reality that you talking about COVID without clearly talking about it.

It’s a little bit like exactly how Charmin talks around toilet paper. Lock urge people to “Enjoy the go," rather than speak what your product is actually provided for. Everyone understands what “the go" means, even if the not clearly stated.

Just as “Enjoy Pooping" makes for a lousy tagline, ads that mention COVID-19 too clearly risk hitting a tart note, because they might suggest the a agency is in which method capitalizing top top the crisis. A car agency that supplies you a discount because of “challenging times" sound friendly — one that uses the same discount as result of a around the world circulating fatal virus pandemic sounds parasitic.

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On the other hand, share phrases prefer this can end up being so familiar that civilization start to song them out. It can be useful to include them, but it’s likewise important to speak an ext directly about the specifically, of what your agency is doing to respond to the crisis. In mine own communications to my team, i have tried to walk the line between including share phrases and talking more directly about how the situation is impacting ours business.