Panic and the Pandemic – Staying Calm in the Chaos

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panic and the pandemic stay calm in chaos

In my junior year of college, I took up a new hobby: oil painting.

While I’d doodled most of my life, it was a new medium for me.

And, despite my long-standing embarrassment that I don’t have much artistic talent, I loved it anyway.

There’s something about the amount of control oil paint gives you to create ultra-clean lines, gorgeous colors, and (my personal favorite) easily cover up old mistakes.

I loved it so much that, while the class was a graduation requirement requiring minimal effort, I often spent long hours in the studio alone that semester, happily covered in colorful smears and the smell of turpentine.

Penguins and Roses

I even bought a tiny easel to take home with me over winter break, where I spent two weeks creating art pieces for friends – like this take on Dali’s Rose Meditative that included a penguin*.*

Cute, right? Also, how 2010 is that cell phone pic quality?

Image of penguin and rose

ANYWAY, if you’re reading this email right now like “Oh wow H, are you AN ARTEEST?”, may I assure you:

While I took up oil painting… oil painting didn’t exactly take me up in return.

(And neither did my super hot art teacher, coincidentally. #laaaaame)

Here’s what would happen:

Remember when I mentioned how easy it was to cover up mistakes with oil paint?

Well… not always.

Watching Paint Dry

I’d be working on a painting — like a self portrait that was a class requirement, I swear — and I’d find a flaw in the shape of, say, my nose.

“Crap.” I’d mutter to myself over the grinding and groaning sounds of dubstep on my headphones “Lemme rework that.”

No, still not quite right.


Not that either.

Now, the key with oils is that if you layer on too much paint? You have to give it time to dry.

Otherwise, it becomes a weird, soupy mishmash on the canvas, and you can’t get ANY color to lay properly, let alone the delicate brush strokes required to clearly define the correct details of one’s own nose.

(I’ve got freckles I happen to like, OK? It’s hard.)

In true Me Fashion, however…. I never listened.

Doing the Same Thing Over Again, Expecting a Different Result…

Time and again, I’d get frustrated with a perceived flaw in my work that just didn’t look the way I wanted to, god damnit, and slap so much paint on it it would take DAYS to dry.

And by the time it did, I’d completely forgotten what was wrong in the first place.

And usually, I’d think:

“Dangit. You know what? It was actually fine. But I got obsessive and ruined it.”

While the reason I stopped painting was more due to convenience than this sole irritation, I’ve been reminded of this little pattern of mine more and more often over the last few weeks.

My very nature is to control. To “fix” things.

To make the list, and check it twice.

To find the solution no one else can, and to always be prepared with a plan and a next step — whether out of a desire to be productive and in control, or simply a need to keep my personal soul-sucking Panic Demons at bay as the world spirals into oblivion.

Tinker Tailor Teacher….Why?

I get obsessive about what should shift, or what’s not perfect, or how to be The Smartest and The Savviest and The Best.

So I make some changes.

And I try some stuff.

And then I try some more stuff.

And a little more.

And eventually the problem is so layered in this “stuff” I’m trying, that I don’t even remember what issue was that I was trying to solve in the first place.

It goes from some type of strategy into a muddy, swirly gray mishmash puddle that’s ughhhh gonna take days to dry.

Which is why, as you could probably imagine, I eventually hit a “trying stuff” wall in the midst of this crisis.

And maybe you have too.

Because that’s kind of the strange upside to all of this, right?

If I have to be in the pit, at least you’re in it with me.

At least we’re all here together.

(Actually no, I take that back. Celebrities who participated in the Imagine video aren’t allowed at our Pit Party.


So I’ve backed off from instruction, or taking any “informing” role over the last few weeks.

I’ve gotta give this stuff time to dry.

In Which We Pause and Laugh at This Whole Thing

And that’s why, when Margo and I decided to do a special live episode of HAMYAW on business and marketing in the COVID-19 pandemic, we didn’t really want to pretend we had answers, or fixes for you.

We didn’t feel the need to “train” you, or say too much, or layer too much paint over the problem.

We just showed up to talk. And laugh at what we could. And ride alongside you as we all try to find the meaning in this.

And the result was a surprisingly delightful and upbeat episode — now titled PANIC IN THE PANDEMIC.

And you can watch it right here, right now, to get our TOTALLY CALM AND NOT FREAKING OUT AT ALL takes on:

  • How to stay calm amidst the chaos (and why it matters)
  • The type of content that’s resonating right now
  • Why you should avoid panic discounting
  • Our favorite tone-deaf emails
  • ROOKIE mistakes from major brands who don’t understand basic email marketing
  • Why it’s time to deploy empathy pronto
  • And a hilarious cameo from Margo’s husband.

We hope it makes you laugh, and smile.

And I hope you’ll give your own paint a little time to dry.

Write on,

Episode Transcript

Oh, yeah, survival aware, support aware, so this is the next, don’t laugh at me, don’t you.

I’m not laughing at you, Ryan just walked in the frame! (laughing)  

Oh my god, finally! You know, Ryan’s never seen the show? Ryan, come here, you’re gonna see your first episode of HAMYAW, okay.  

I should tell you, I have my headphones on, so he can’t hear you. 

[Hillary] Hi, Ryan!  

Hello. (laughing)  

[Ryan] Hello! Can you hear me?  

My God Ryan, just get out! I literally said, please do not come home.  

[Ryan] Now?  

I need you to speak up, Ryan.  

[Ryan] Oh.  

Wait, now I have to, should I bring Zach in the frame, now? 

(upbeat music) 

Welcome back marketing nerds of the world, it’s time for another episode of HAMYAW and today we are discussing the thing that’s on everybody’s minds right now, which is panic in the pandemic. We are coming to you live from the incredibly weird, very intense era of Coronavirus. Panic in the online business world, in the regular business world, in the parent world, in the kid world. 

Everything is kind of a mess right now, so we wanted to make an episode to talk about what we’re seeing. Discuss a few things going right and going wrong in the business world. And just generally riff with all of you about what’s going on. And most excitingly, this episode is being filmed in front of a live, virtual audience. So where you’re at home, give yourselves a round of applause for watching live with us, Margo, how are you doing over there? How’s your apocalypse been so far?  

Every day is different. Like, I’m actually very grateful for my friends that have been in AA, ’cause they’re like, “Every day, just take it day by day.” “I’m like, that is really good advice!” (laughs)  


Like, don’t push ahead, plan ahead. Just like get through today. I think trying to stay positive is like the hardest thing, while also, like, giving yourself permission to totally fall apart.  

I think what was really interesting is the Wednesday before New York City shut down, so this was a couple of weeks ago. I knew it was getting real ’cause I was scrolling through my phone and it was like, the NBA canceled it’s season, and I was like, holy crap. Like that was 10 years ago, also two weeks ago.

That shooketh me to my core and I knew things were serious when something so big-budget, culturally impactful as the NBA was just literally closing for the rest of the season. That was wild. But I think what was most interesting was that my first instinct was like, okay, how can I help? How can I create a helpful webinar, or a masterclass, or a low ticket offer? Be really stand-up and be a leader in this time! And then within 48 hours (explosion noise) it was a tidal wave.  

[Margo] Just kidding! (laughing)  

I was like, oh!  

All that time you thought you had!  

So talk to me a little bit about what you’re seeing in terms of the deluge of helpful content, right now?  

Yeah, so this is interesting you guys, there are a lot of people putting out really great, helpful, useful content right now. And I think if you have an audience, it’s a really powerful time to stand up and lead.

I know we did an episode of this before, but the difference between vulnerability and disclosure is vulnerability takes courage to share with the right people, who’ve earned the right. So people who are in your audience, in your tribe, speaking to their struggles as their leader, vulnerability. 

But disclosure is when you’re kind of verbal vomiting all over people who shouldn’t hear your private business.

And we’re getting a little bit of that. We gotta be really careful that that’s not what’s happening right now with your content. And that’s where we always talk about on HAMYAW, creative allies are the most important thing, like I’m gonna call Hillary and fall apart, and then I’m gonna show up on this webinar and we’re gonna talk about useful things.

But we’re not gonna lie about the fact that we’re falling apart, you know, there’s a line, there’s line. So I think, like, when it comes to content, part of the reason why we need to maintain our mental health and our calm, is so we can be strategic and discerning.  


With what we put out and how we put it out. So something we wanted to talk about today is, like, watching people do sort of panic responses either in their content or how they’re structuring their services. I’m hearing a lot of people very afraid of selling.

A lot of people who are discounting, or opposite end of the spectrum, being like, I gotta sell, I gotta sell now, you gotta buy all my things, and here’s somehow like creating a link between this and the pandemic, you’re just like, wait wha? (laughs) 

So, yeah, I think, like, number one is, keep your core as much as possible. So, leaning on those creative allies, taking care of your mental health and your physical health to whatever degree that you can. And so you can think clearly and strategically about, okay, what does this fricking mean for my business?  

Absolutely, and this is what Margo and I were talking about, kind of, the first time things started getting really bad. Which is you cannot make smart moves if you are panicking and you are stuck operating up here. And like, Kermit arm mode, where you’re just like, what if I do this, and what if I do that? Even though it feels like everything’s so urgent right now, really being able to take a beat and come at it as much as you can from a place of calm, because that’s how you see the door opening.

And doors are going to open.

So many of us are online business owners. So many of us have been living the virtual work from home life, the strategy life, the consulting life, the copywriting, creative direction, design, developers, like what so many of you make up that population, and I don’t wanna be like, it’s our time now more than ever, ’cause right now everything fucking sucks. 

But, if we stay calm and stay centered and know exactly who we’re helping and how, and just stay focused on that and being present to what’s happening, and responding, then, when that door opens you’ll be able to walk through it. But you can’t see it if you’re freaking out and trying to discount and throwing panic $27 offers out there just to make sure,  

Talk to us about that, Hilary, the panic discounting.  

Let’s get started with that, guys. When we were talking about panic sort of topics that we wanted to talk about, the immediate discounting was like the number one thing that I wanted to bring the hammer down on all of you guys now, well, not all of you guys, ’cause I don’t know if you’re discounting your services.

I’m pretty sure Paul Garvis isn’t and if he’s here with us, so listen to Paul, guys, if you don’t listen to me. But, I think what I’m see a lot of right now is people immediately responding to the crisis by believing that businesses who were going to hire them are no longer able to at their current price point, ergo, they should drop, you know, 25%, 50%. 

Do not do that. For a couple of reasons.

One, it can attract the wrong kind of client to you. This is kind of what they talk about when you do lifeguard training.

Where you see somebody out there panicking and drowning. When you swim out to get them, you’re putting yourself at tremendous risk of being drowned yourself. Because they’re panicking, they’re holding on to you anyway that they can.

And while we wanna be able to serve those people and help those people, you have to be smart about how you approach it. And immediately discounting not only can attract the wrong kind of client, it also devalues your work, which is a huge problem right now. Or could be a huge problem and we are the economy.

If we keep our prices up and we all hold the line together, everything can stay strong. And there are different ways to create opportunities for new clients than discounting. 

So one of the ways that both Margo and I are both doing that, for me, I’m extending payment plans for my coaching, I know Margo is doing the same thing.

I’m extending payment plans for coaching and for my creative direction and copy clients. Normally it’s within four weeks, but you’re adding on an extra two, or an extra four. So it’s six to eight. That’s one way to do it.

Also adding value. A coaching client of mine, Rachel B. Turner, shout out, offers a really amazing six month coaching program. And instead of discounting the service, what she’s doing, she’s actually bringing in her fiancé, who has a masters in leadership.

So they’re gonna be doing a leadership call for one-to-one clients, because she’s discovered in the world events that she’s not just attracting people who want to up-level their businesses and create funnels and all of these things, but they really wanna step forward as a leader. Because they’re seeing such a call for that right now.

So, that’s another way to kind of look at the opportunity and create value or extend payment plans instead of discounting. Because, again, I know the first thing, you’re like, throw it out the window, offload the ship.  

[Margo] Everything free!  

Bring in everything I can, but in reality, you still wanna be mindful. And you still wanna remember, you have the power of choice right now, just as you have ever had. And clients who are a great fit to work with you are still out there.

So, hang tight and reinterpret the way you offer things as opposed to automatically discounting or cutting yourself off at the knees.  

I wanna jump in here because I think, one of the things at the heart of this is, we’re making a lot of assumptions.

And the first thing you don’t wanna do is, you cannot assume anything about your target market right now. I’ll give you an example from my own business. I was planning on running Ignition, which is a writing accountability coaching group starting April 6th.

As soon as all this happened, I was like, there’s no way, there’s no way, no one has time, no one’s gonna be like, hey let’s write a little. ‘Cause the whole point of it is to carve out time for writing and build that habit. And so I was like, okay, I’m gonna have to move forward with a different product. 

My cold traffic is applying to Ignition, like, I’m getting applications. I was like, okay, what’s this about?

This makes no sense.

I thought a live program for sure would be a bad idea, with people with kids home, and duh, duh, duh, turns out, a lot of people have jobs where they’re home for the first time, they don’t have to commute.

They’re thinking about what actually matters, so they’re going, oh shoot, I really wanna finish my book. They’re starting to care more about themselves and invest in self-care. So, we really don’t know what this means for the market. So I think first thing first, don’t assume that your market is completely out of cash. 

By the way, if your people are in fitness, they’re doing fine. I mean, it depends on their company, but like, right now there are certain companies that are actually doing really, really well. So the panic brain is when fear takes over and you’re terrified, which is totally understandable.

There’s a global pandemic. But if we pause and we’re like, okay, what do we know for sure? And how can we make our existing plans fit into what’s happening in the zeitgeist so it doesn’t feel totally tone-deaf? That’s a fair concern, y’all. I’m gonna pivot here.  


Into talking about tone-deafness. Yeah, Heather made the point, Zoom is doing really well.  

Yeah, Zoom is doing great.  

[Margo] Yeah! (laughing)  

But like, that’s it’s own set of problems, y’all. Some people may be struggling with scale too fast. That’s a huge issue. Also if you’re in the B to B space, I mean thinking about the opportunities of what might be happening, businesses that are booming that might actually need help from people who are digital natives that have been operating in this space for a really long time. So we need to take a moment to think about the difference between finding beautiful opportunities in the market that you can jump into and be helpful and being absolutely tone-deaf.  

I wanna talk more about the tone-deafness in one second but I also wanna remind you guys that even though the pool of ideal clients might be smaller, for some of your offers, they’re probably more passionate than ever, and I actually had a really similar experience to Margo, where, you know, my coaching and creative direction, just and, like messaging strategies, what I really really love to do, those are my three favorite things.

I’m still a copywriter obviously, but, I was seeing so much interest in my strategy, in my coaching, in my creative direction as the things were getting worse and worse because people finally have a chance to pull back and think about what they want in their businesses.

You know, in the case of my coaching, what’s like your statement piece, your big idea, how do we thread that through your offers and everything so we build a really powerful brand.

For messaging strategy, how do we pivot, what the hell is going on right now? Based on, like, the current market. And then for creative direction, is people finally having time to pull back and work on their brands. And they’re like, man, I was gonna do this, this would have been perfect for this time, but the best time to work on it is now.

And I was like, wow, it’s really fascinating.

Those opportunities are still out there, so hang tight, guys. But, on that note, there are definitely some industries and brands that are kind of fucking this up right now. Margo, I think you have a lot to say about this.  

I have so much to say about this.  

[Hillary] Finally.  

Y’all. The E-mails, the E-mails!  

The E-mails!  

I can’t, I can’t. Okay, so, the amount of E-mails I have gotten from companies that I didn’t even know had my E-mail address for the last five I’ve heard from, in five or 10 years. All of a sudden being like, here is industry associate’s response to Covid. I’m like, first of all, who the fuck are you. Second of all, why do I care what your response is, like.  

The best is, we’re here for you. I’m like, you’re a fake 

Where have you been?  

That I bought like two things off of for Burning Man in 2014, like what are you doing in my inbox? You don’t care about me, you don’t know me. Like, I haven’t heard from you?  

This is the panic response though. Because what they’re doing, I guarantee you is satisfying shareholders or some sort of panicked board member, and they like just wanna tell the board member, like, hey I did something.  

We’re building brand loyalty, guys. This is where it starts.  

[Margo] It’s too late.  

In the middle of a pandemic.  

Here’s the thing. The basic laws of human psychology still apply. So, if you all of a sudden haven’t talked to your friend in a while, like, let’s say you haven’t talked to a friend that you were BFFAEAE in high school, and it’s, let’s call it six years later, let’s be generous, ’cause we’re all so young.  

We’re such children!  

We’re such 20 year olds. So, even if it’s six years later, right, you don’t just suddenly call them and be like, I have this great opportunity for you. We’re doing just fine, everything is great. This is how I’m responding to the crisis. Like, no, you start out and you be like, hey remember when we used to be friends? That was crazy time, the time we snuck into the movie theater. Like, you find something,  


That bridges who you are with who they were, and like actually build that relationship back. So, we talked about this  

[Hillary] Yeah. 

Iin an upcoming episode that we’ve actually paused for a little with Shanay Howard, shout out to Shanay.  

She’s awesome, maybe she’s on,  

She’s amazing. We have a HAMYAW-AF coming out with her. And we talked about building that brand loyalty and that equity that you need. We were talking specifically during the launch and how a lot of people freak out during the launch that they’re trying to build relationships with people and that’s the wrong time to do it. And, this is the same  

Too late.  

Exact situation, so if you want to build that loyalty with people, it should have been done seven months ago.

This is why we put out content. This is why you show up in people’s inboxes. This is why you continue to be on Instagram and do all those things that you’re like, this isn’t profitable.

Why do I show up like a human? This is why! In this moment!

Because this is when you have to sort of cash out on that equity, sometimes literally, but also figuratively, to be like, hey now you can actually stand up as a leader because you’ve earned it. But showing up out of the blue? That’s tone-deaf.

No one cares that you’re actually eroding your brand equity. You’re getting more unsubscribes. The more empathetic thing to have done is to have a subject line in your email that says, haven’t heard of me, but, dot, dot, dot.  

Haven’t heard from me in while, but.  

Remember us, question mark. And then like, explaining who you are. You know, that’s one road in if you really do feel like you need to say something.

The other version of this, by the way, that the tone-deaf thing that people are freaking out about, one is, so I just explained, it’s companies showing up in your inbox, or online, acting like they’re your friends when they were not your friends. That’s a huge problem. 

And the second thing is, matching the content to the climate. So, that is a real, real sticky one.

And we are, I think, most of you listening, you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum. You’re really good people. And so when you’re really good people, we sort of over-correct, by being like, I can’t do anything right now!

But, first I’ll explain the bad people. And they’re the ones who, I’ve seen a lot of Instagram ads sort of come at you, where you’re, I just feel for some of these brands. They clearly had like a Facebook ads manager that forgot to turn off their ads.  

Yeah, it’s my favorite game right now, by the way. Like, is this on purpose? Or did the ads manager do that?  

Right? (laughs)  

[Hillary] It’s like, also, real quick, right just  

Yeah, yeah.  

The Facebook ads are hilarious, ’cause you can see where somebody went in, like slapped three more bullet points on it, like about COVID and then just went into the regular ad. And there’s no tie in. It’s just like, things suck right now, right? I can’t believe it, anyway, here’s why you should buy my sales program. It’s just like, oh my gosh.  

Do you have time to write an E-book all of a sudden have no time to commute? Ready to publish your book? That’s the like, sleazy kind of opportunistic. We here at HAMYAW actually like opportunistic in the positive way. Part of being an entrepreneur is spotting opportunities, right?  

[Hillary] Stay in the door.  

My dad used to say this growing up, success is when preparedness meets opportunity.

That’s the kind of opportunity you’re looking for. But what we’re not looking for is jumping off and trying to feed off of people’s panic. Or just completely acting like nothing’s changed.

And so, my favorite example of this is Ryan Deiss, who runs Digital Marketer, was, they’re just selling, selling, selling, selling. And some of that is awesome. You should keep selling, in business as usual.

But, the timing of a couple of their offers was so bad that they actually, this is the right thing to do, let me give the credit where credit is due, even to scums, the credit they did, they got on and he sent out an e-mail, they have a huge list, and was like, listen, that was really tone-deaf.

I’m sorry, we weren’t really considering the climate at the time, we shouldn’t have been moving forward with this particular offer. Fell on the sword, mea culpa and I promise you, brand loyalty went up from that.

But let me be a little more specific about what I am talking about here. I am talking about sales packaging, that is either really trying to sound opportunistic in a bad way, where you’re making, again, assumptions about your market, that you don’t have founding for. Or you’re trying to make an arbitrary tie in, like what Hillary was saying. That arbitrary tie-in of like…  


This is somehow relevant, like, it doesn’t necessarily have to be, to still be useful.  

And that’s the thing too. I think this is sort of the question mark around like what a pivot actually is right now,  


Is it, like, adding a few words to a Facebook ad? Is it totally changing, you know, the sales page, the E-mails you’re sending out? And I’ve actually been doing this, real quick guys, just a little bit of background to how I’ve been responding to the crisis and why you maybe haven’t seen me putting out as many webinars and all of that stuff, masterclasses and as some other folks.

And Margo, I know, has kind of the same story, is thinking about it in terms of circles. Thinking about your immediate circle, where your family, like taking care of them first. Then moving out to the next layer. Family and friends is first. Next layer is your clients.  

[Margo] Clients.  

Your immediate clients. And in that regard, as soon as things started getting really bad, I sent out complimentary 30-minute sessions to all existing clients and then all clients in the last six months, and I’ve had a lot of really, really productive conversations there about like how to improve their strategy.

Some of them have turned into opportunities for extended contracts. And more work and all those lovely things. And then from there, I’m actually also serving client communities.

Like, I’m doing a consulting workshop in TCC, a copyrighter club group, probably next week. As well as talking to clients about doing a quick pivoting workshop for their communities, because, you know all this crazy shit is going on. And then the general public. Because it’s really hard to know what, like, the world needs right now. Oh, your own community also lives in these circles as well.  

[Margo] Yeah  

So it’s, you know, your own community, your own people, you know who you’re serving.

You know what they’re needing, but in terms of the public at large, like throwing out a, so I’m doing a webinar, what do you guys wanna know?

Nobody knows right now. And they need to be led, and they need to be told what’s going to happen when they join this. The tools they’re going to have. All of that good stuff.

That is the way to have a productive conversation right now. It’s really hard to do that when you’re just trying to react to everything going on and having it in public. So think about where you can be most useful in terms of circle right now.

Like, family, clients, immediate audience, audiences of other clients, and then the general public. Because actually, that’s gonna show you in waves where you’re having the most powerful and useful conversations. And where you can be of most service right now. And also what you can be doing to attract more clients based on what the people in your immediate orbit are struggling with and what they need.  

I love this.  

[Hillary] so that’s another reason why not to totally panic.  

So I think part of it is also, you know, that we feel this pressure especially as leaders in our space. I know a lot of you watching are as well, to be out there more. Be louder, to lead, which I agree. I think you need to lead. But I think that it’s unrealistic to assume our, there needs to be boundaries around your accessibility, as a leader right now.  


[Margo] And where you might have been doing a lot of sales via DM. Right, Or fielding all of your E-mails? It’s not gonna be physically possible if you have kids at home, if you have a spouse who’s just annoying the shit out of you, or like clients freaking out. Like, really, I have so many friends whose clients are losing their minds right now.  

[Hillary] Yeah.  

Relying on them, and you need the mental bandwidth to be able to hold space for that? Because that is part of your job. To fulfill your commitments to them. And client manage a bit, but that takes some space. So if you are missing Instagram, if you are not online as much as you would be as a public figure, there is slack. I know Gary V. tries to make you really, really scared of disappearing.  

God dammit, Gary.  

And not having enough content, I am telling you, you’re gonna be fine. If you have to ghost for a little bit and then come back, or you have to be inconsistent with your posting right now, it’s totally fine.  

Margo and I have been talking about this. The only way to lose is if you disappear completely.

If you need a break to process what’s happening, if you need to go internal to figure out what the questions are so you can learn about where you can be of most use, like, take that time. ‘Cause, we’re gonna be like this for a while probably.

Like, that’s the reality we’re looking at right now. So it’s not necessarily about like, where’s the fastest thing? What thing can I do right, right, right now?

It’s what am I seeing in the market? Like, zoom out. What am I seeing in the market and how can I be of most use? And that’s a really important…  

[Margo] Yes.  

And powerful thing right now that all these brands are in your inbox saying, I’m thinking about ya’, aren’t doing.

You’re seeing that play out in real time, and I think this is actually a really valuable lesson for everyone as well. And another thing that’s important to keep in mind. I actually did a blog post on this recently, which is Eugene Schwartz’s five stages of customer awareness. Hands up marketing nerds  

[Margo] Nice.  

Who knows that that is?  


I did a blog post on also the five stages of COVID response, which is basically like, I know it’s really smart. But no,  

I’m gonna read that  

It’s really good, you haven’t read it? How dare you!  

[Margo] I don’t know how I missed that!  

You’re supposed to be reading all my E-mails!  

It must have been because we’re in a pandemic.  

This matters to me. Your daughter can hang out by herself and, I don’t know, it doesn’t matter. I’m not gonna finish that joke because.  

[Margo] Worst! (laughing)  

She’s adorable, and we love her and secretly I hope she rolls into the Q&A. Five Stages of COVID Awareness, if you’re not familiar with Eugene Schwartz’s Five Stages of Customer Awareness, it’s basically people who have no idea who the fuck you are and don’t even don’t even know that they have a problem all the way to people who are like thirsty to buy whatever.  

Sell me something, anything, I’ll buy it.  

As soon as you drop it, like gimme, just take my money.

They’re like, unaware, problem aware, solution aware, product aware, and then most aware. So that’s the Eugene Schwartz version, but H Weiss version was a little more like this, which is, we start at total panic. And this is where a lot of people, especially if they’re just going through a shut down right now, especially if they’ve been like, yeah, COVID isn’t really a real thing. And then all of a sudden they’re like, oh no, like, my work has stopped.

That’s total panic mode, where people are starting to realize what’s happening. And those people obviously, not prime to buy right now. Not excited, don’t know what they need. Don’t know where their head’s at. They’re kind of in headless chicken mode.

And these are a lot of people who are glomming onto a lot of free content right now. They’re being served in a really powerful way, which is why, again, we were talking earlier in the call about that toilet paper hoarding mode, as Nicole says.  

[Margo] Good title.  

I think this is why I’m encouraging you guys to pull back from offering a bunch of free stuff to the world at large right now because that’s the kind of people it’s attracting. And those are wonderful people but are those the people that you necessarily, you know, gotta make sure they’re the right fit for your audience. The same rules apply.

You know, you always wanna make sure that you’re bringing in audience members to resonate with what you do, and are not just smashing the panic button and kind of absorbing everything they can. So there’s just total panic. 

That’s the first level, and there’s panic aware.

Where people who know they’re freaking out and understand that, like that they need to be calm. And these are people who are, again, looking to be lead, looking for real resources, they know exactly what they’re looking for. They’re looking for specific stuff.

And then there is total panic, panic aware.

There’s survival aware, and these are people who are like, okay, I’ve got some space. I’ve got a cash cushion. I was kind of ready for this. Now what do I do?

Like how do I not make the most of a crisis, but what needs to happen next? And these are those sort of more people who are likely to invest in the higher-level stuff. They’re just starting to wake up to the fact that they could really use this support. That is should be hands-on. And those are the people kind of in that phase. 

So we have survival aware, which I just talked about.

Then support aware. This person knows they should keep investing in themselves. They know that a calm, guiding hand is gonna be basically what they need to make sure their business kind of stays level. Then they’re ready to grow when some of the stuff sort of calms down.

And then most aware, and this is the same thing as Eugene Schwartz’s. People who are just like waiting in the wings for you to offer something so they can pounce.

Thinking about them in kind of those terms as opposed to like, what are my people freaking out about most and how can I fix it, will kind of help you edit your approach and tweak your language in a way that’s going to target people who you don’t necessarily have to lead through certain stages.

Like you don’t necessarily want to maybe be working with people who are in total panic mode because it requires a lot of energy, and frankly, expertise to right that ship again. 

So, take a look at that, I can drop the blog post in the chat for you guys and we’ll link it when we do the actual show recording if you wanna check it out.

But that’s basically the way I’m thinking about things right now. But again, this is what you’re not seeing.

In these crazy, crappy e-mails you’re getting from companies.

These Facebook ads that feel really lazy, and all these people who are trying to pivot and figuring out whether that’s just (claps) slapping three words on a Facebook ad or whether it’s totally redoing your stuff end to end, that’s basically where we’re at with the messaging strategy.

A lot of you are actually going to have messages that don’t necessarily need to be seriously tweaked right now, especially if you’re focused on, you know, conversion copyrighting,  


helping client’s plug holes in their sales funnel. All that good stuff. All of that is already relevant. If anything you can crank up the urgency and just change the lens a little bit.

Maybe you’re talking to your clients and saying, oh wow, you’re looking around and realizing that you maybe shoulda fixed this before the crisis. The best time to fix holes in your conversions or whatever was before Corona.

The next time is right now. So that’s just basically something to think about when you’re thinking about your messaging strategy, when you’re thinking about how to pivot, when you’re trying not to be an annoying marketer. That’s the place to start.  

Yes. I think that is the best note I want y’all to take away. Which is, all of this fear that you’re being annoying, that you’re being pushy, that it’s not a good time to sell. Lean on your ethical persuasion roots. The same rules apply.

You should never be annoying. You should never be pushy. You should never be selling people stuff that they don’t want, right. Ever, ever, ever, ever.

A big part of what we do in sales is match someone’s problem to the solution that you sell. So this is still in effect. Like, more than ever, your copy training, your marketing training, that is what you rest on.

And so this all hinges on the most important thing that the tone-deaf marketers aren’t doing for businesses, which is empathy. Just some empathy and compassion.

Your target market, who is she? What does her day look like now? Put yourself in that situation. Close your eyes, walk yourself through her day, and then figure out, of the problems that she currently has, where does your solution fit?

And it might be that nothing’s changed. That your messaging is still totally fine. It might be that it’s better and more powerful. It might be that you need to tweak a couple of things to fit into her new circumstances. 

And so all of that hinges on having some compassion, some empathy for your target market. And then on the flip side, for yourself.

The main thing to take away from this is, you can weather this storm. We need you to be calm. We need you to take care of yourself. Understand the concentric circles Hillary was talking about with your family being at the core. Your friends next. Your clients, and then everyone else.

So if you need to ghost, if you have to do what you need to do behind the scenes, or building your brand, make sure you take care of your foundation so you can make strategic decisions and strategic calls as you move forward.

Deciding what we’re gonna sell next quarter. Deciding what content we’re going to move forward with. Deciding what messages need to be first and foremost and who is deserving of your time. So, you wanna protect that accessibility as much as possible right now, because your mental load, your bandwidth is super low.  

Real quickly,  

[Margo] Yeah.  

Do you know you have that really great post on headlines and media panic, I don’t know if you wanna touch up on that it’s really,  

I could totally talk about that.  

I just wanna hear you say a few words about that, ’cause I think that’s also driving a lot of things right now and I loved what you had to say in terms of headlines, in business and like the media and also in marketing.  


Do you have anything you wanna share on that before we jump off? ‘Cause I just loved that and I wanna hear you jump on it real quick.  

I could talk about it for an hour.  

[Hillary] I know, how much time y’all got? You are so right.  

I wrote a post called Coronavirus is Serious, Panic is Optional. And the goal of that post was to get people to understand that there is a difference between headlines that convert, that sort of feed off of emotions, which is what we sort of teach you to do, and headlines that are strategically designed to induce panic and exploit your emotions and put you into a crazy state, where you’re constantly reacting.

And so I used some examples of what you’re seeing in the media, this has to do with the business model. So all of us watching, use headlines in various places in our work. We use them as banners in our website, we use them as bullet points on our sales pages, we use them as our first line of a status update on LinkedIn. 

Headlines are in all of these places and what they are supposed to do is act as a beacon, right, so they’re supposed to attract the right people and detract the wrong ones. So they’re sort of naturally bifurcating when that happens. In a good way.

So like, people who are not interested in hats shouldn’t be reading your headline about hats. You want it to attract people who want to buy hats, right? Who are interested in hats. So bifurcate, people who like hats, people who don’t like hats.

Now, the news has an inherently different business model. The news doesn’t need you to actually convert into a buyer. It doesn’t have an action it needs you to take later. What it needs you to do is view it. It needs you to click and view because that’s how they make money.

It’s an ad-based model. So the more views they get, the more they can charge advertisers for your attention. And when that’s the case, there is an incentive to keep you coming back for more. And what keeps people coming back for more? Fear!  

Yeah, so true!  

Fear, sensationalism, hype, paranoia. It happens to me, where I click on things and I’m like oh my god, and I have to keep going and I have to keep going and I have to keep clicking.  

Who among us has not been in a Coronavirus headline hole?  

Oh my god.  

[Hillary] I’ve gone deep, guys.  

Right, and then you forward to 600 people ’cause you’re like, you have to read this, even though you only read one paragraph and didn’t actually read it. ‘Cause you feel like you’re doing a civic service. Because the news has been sold to you as this duty of yours to provide this information to the public. It’s a whistleblower, we’re the good guys, right?

Which, theoretically they’re supposed to be.

But right now there’s a problem with the business model. The business model is based off of exploiting your attention. Now, sometimes that can be an okay thing. There are diplomatic and very, very responsible ways to do that. 

The way you see ads for example on a podcast. They’re not exploiting you for attention. They are aware that you are listening and they’re giving you content that’s relevant. The news doesn’t work like that.

And so when that’s the case and you’re hoarding people’s attention and you are trying to profit off their outrage, that’s when we have a problem. And so what’s happening is a lot of us are being completely, myself included, emotionally exploited right now.

Because there are other countries that are having the same risks that we are right now that aren’t losing their shit. And that is in part because of this media machine that we are in. That we are feeling the fear all the time. All the time. 

And so part of what I want us to understand, as copywriters and as marketers, is that we have a huge responsibility to our audience and to our customers and to our clients to remind them that you can separate the fear from the actual actions you take. Now, I personally think that we can opt-out of outreach culture.

I think it’s time that we, you know, log off of Twitter. Protect your attention right now. If you ever feel that feeling of like, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, the world is collapsing, I have to forward this to 600 people, what am I gonna do?

Like that feeling isn’t real, it’s manufactured. By people who are misusing the tools that Hillary and I teach. And that’s part of what we wanted to call out and tried to call out in this article. 

There’s another way to communicate information that’s useful that focuses on conversion, that focuses on getting someone to take an action. ‘Cause when someone’s in fear, the only action they’re going to take is to search for more information in a desperate attempt to pull things back, and that’s where you get it where we started with this episode.

Which is panic.

You get people going, I gotta discount, nobody is buying, all these things are happening, you start making assumptions because fear hijacks your brain. Makes you a crazy person. I’m a crazy person when I’m afraid. I don’t know anyone that’s made a good decision from fear.  

Yeah, everyone is. Yeah.  

You get desperate. You start doing really, really, really, really bad things.

So part of the self-care, call to action that I wanna bring to you guys is, if you are able to take care of your mental health and maintain your own sanity, you can better see more objectively. When you’re reading something, use your brain.

Really, all you need is your brain to pause and go, okay, how do they know what they know? How was this framed?

Start asking the hard questions and if you really do wanna read, like, I’ll explain how we know that this is manipulation, before two weeks ago, none of you were interested in microbiology of infectious diseases. (laughing)

And now everyone is quoting to me graphs and charts and articles they read. I’m like when was the last time you read an academic article? I went to grad school for this, well not for microbiology, but I read academic articles, and they’re boring, and I promise you you’re not reading them right. And there’s plenty of problems with the studies and different ways that you can understand data. So like, your data literacy, not interested in it.  

Nah, scientific literacy in this country, we have enough of a problem as it is, (laughing) and now everyone’s an epidemiologist, so that’s fun.  

Exactly, exactly. So, it’s not saying that we need to be inherently distrusting, but there is a way to communicate information without making people lose their minds. Alright, thank you guys so much for watching. If you liked this episode please like it below. Comment, tell us how you are dealing with the panic. And subscribe to our channel. I’m Margo Aaron.  

And I’m Hillary Weiss.  

This is HAMYAW and we will see you in two weeks. Thanks for watching!  

[Hillary] Bye for now, guys.  

Bye. (bang) 

Photo by Juliet Clare Warren

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