In the age of COVID-19, you know that many brands are attempting to "give back" to their loyal customers as a core messaging and business practice. CNN has even produced a current list of companies making significant contributions that show the humane ways profit donations can make a real difference during this unprecedented time.

Yet, when employed the wrong way, brand altruism can be disastrous for your reputation, not to mention a detriment to the customers you could be truly assisting. Here are five essential mistakes no brand should make when it comes to generosity during the pandemic:

Not being genuine.

No matter how you hard you try to spin, false kindness reads as false kindness. When it comes to crafting content that lays out the help, benefits, donations and discounts you plan to offer your demographic during the pandemic, don't be cloying, phony, funny, or cute. Be real.

State upfront that you want to help, outline how you intend to do it clearly, and offer generous customer service contact options so your customers can take advantage of what you have to offer as easily as possible. This is a serious time — your customers need to know you see assisting them that way, too.

Also, make sure your generosity has flexibility baked in. Work with your customers when it comes to payment assistance or lower pricing; if some of the most popular practical items you sell are out of stock, offer swift substitutions your audience can choose instead and offer swift updating in terms of back orders.

Aligning with questionable social media platforms.

According to Forbes, It's crucial for brands avoid unknowingly posting ad content that contains altruistic messaging in any areas of a platform with inaccurate or intentionally misleading info on COVID-19.

You need to do your research scrupulously to make sure that the platforms you work with are enforcing overall accuracy in the posts they allow. Otherwise, your brand may be unfairly associated with falsehoods. And it goes without saying that you should pull ads from any social media platforms or pages that allow or promote hate speech, now and always.

Being deceptive about profit distribution.

Never try to omit info about how your donation profit plan will work. You may not mean to do this, of course — it may be simply that you are not factoring in the full cost of overhead expenses when you drop a percentage number into your ad content.

Crunch every expense prior to writing that copy, though. Don't estimate costs that could cut into donated profits. Instead, be transparent and make a list of those expenses you will need to cover readily available to the public so everyone can see you are above-board. Also, explain in detail why you have chosen to partner with any organization you are donating profits to so your customers can see that their money is going to a cause of real value.

Treating employees less than charitably.

The recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 10.6 million workers in the U.S. were on temporary layoff in June 2020. Do everything you can to help your workers first and foremost, whether they are furloughed, laid off, partially employed or still with you full time.

It's not only the right thing to do, but no consumer will trust a brand claiming to "give back" when that brand does not treat their own labor force well. Never pull the rug out from your employees or give the impression that a living, breathing, feeling worker is simply a filled position.

Pivoting on established offers.

Practicing "limited time kindness" is a big mistake. If you promise to work with customers on flexible payment options, don't suddenly drop your policy. If you promise discount pricing for a set period of time, keep that promise, and ease your customers back in to paying a higher price at a later time.

In the end, think of the giving your brand will do in terms of how YOU, as a consumer, would be affected by it. If you would be offended, turned off, or taken aback by your own messaging, go back to the drawing board. Most of all, remember we're all in this together, so be real, be kind, and follow though.