You want to stay in touch with you customers during the COVID-19 crisis but you're acutely aware of the fact that a communication misstep can derail that good intention. Digital or social media brand messages that look opportunistic, insensitive or tone-deaf at this time could indeed be a deal-breaker for many consumers and decision-makers now and may be very difficult to recover from when sales conditions normalize down the line.

How do you make sure you're communicating in a way that is humane, balanced, kind and altruistic? Here are 10 crucial, common-sense ways to accomplish your goal step by step:

1. Define your needs for what you want to accomplish with your marketing messages at this time. Maintaining your current customer base is of course a priority; gaining new customers is probably less important to you strategically at this time, but keep in mind that striking a tone of understanding and kindness that is genuine is crucial to accomplishing both goals.

Never send the message to any customer base, either existing or potential, that profit is what you're seeking right now. Instead, stress the fact that you want to provide them what they need, not seek what they can or can't give during these difficult times.

2. Do the social listening you need to find out how your audience is thinking and feeling. What is worrying them most? What do they need from your brand more than ever, in terms of convenience, availability, and interaction? Tailor your messaging to address these needs.

Get the word on special discounts, deferred payment options, and availability of your products throughout the supply chain if you sell essential goods. Be reassuring and honest, and continually stress your desire to work with your customers in ways that they will appreciate. They won't forget your effort.

3. Craft copy that is humane, sensitive, clear, and concise. Don't be tone-deaf. Don't make your copy about you and what an amazing job you are doing at this unprecedented time in the world. This is not the time to self-promote — it's the time to give, to be supportive, and to anticipate and alleviate the stress and fear so many of your customers are no doubt feeling.

It's fine to lay out points as to how your products and services can help make things easier for your demographic during this time; it's not OK to brag about your brand success and awesome reputation.

4. Time your marketing campaign so it's appropriate, emotionally intelligent, and devoid of overkill. Advertise less rather than more. Know especially that at the height of this crisis, on days filled with tough news, and at times when local and federal governments need to lead with essential messaging, the last thing you need to be doing is posting about nonessential products.

5. Make sure your influencers are on the same page with you, so they too communicate with care and sensitivity. One ill-placed, crass, or unfeeling post from an influencer at this time can spell utter disaster for that influencer's future credibility. Even if what he or she says does not directly refer to your brand, you can and will later suffer by association.

Put out universal guidelines to all the influencers you work with so they know what is acceptable communication from your standpoint and what is not. Cut ties with anyone who does not respect your rules, both directly and in a public post.

6. Be flexible. As circumstances change, be willing to expand your scope of assistance to your customers and post so they know it. Make flexibility of pricing and payments your main message, and your customers won't forget it.

7. Start a dialogue. Respond directly and constantly to customer questions and concerns — this should be a huge focus of the work your team is doing right now. Live chat is absolutely crucial; so are timely responses and resolutions to customer questions and issues.

Pour your energy into giving answers, learning what your audience needs, and taking their worries off their plates so they can focus on more important matters in their lives.

8. Monitor and adjust. Watch the news — it sounds like a no-brainer, but not everyone does this. Stay informed so you can adjust your messaging and your brand assistance as warranted by world events. Use Google Alerts and keep abreast of local and national briefings.

9. Take the universal approach. We're all in this together. Say that clearly to your customers. The fact that you acknowledge this key fact is what makes your brand humane and makes you human.

10. Tap into your empathy at all times. Empathy is key to bonding even tighter with your audience — and earning their enduring loyalty and respect.