As the smoke clears, brands start to emerge bleary-eyed from the toughest economic period many will have faced, one which has rocked businesses to the core with marketing operations facing unprecedented challenges and budgets being stretched to their limits.
As a direct consequence of this, PR has taken a back seat for many businesses with the decision made to prioritise other areas of marketing. Rhi looks at why PR is more important now than ever and how to get your communication right.
Covid-19 has led to big changes to the way people live and conduct business resulting in a very different landscape for brands to navigate. Amidst this huge global change, the traditional ways of communication now play a lesser role than in the past. With people shifting from going to an office to working from home, many now rely more on digital platforms to communicate, conduct business, and stay connected post-pandemic.
In response to this seismic change, businesses are having to adapt to using different communication channels to reach and relate with their target audience and sustain customer engagement. Here are the key things that your brand should be mindful of when communicating:
Be aware of the immediate and long-term impact on the community within both internal and external communications. As well as those directly impacted by the virus, many are facing financial hardship and battling emotional and mental issues due to the long periods of isolation. Staying on top of how the pandemic has affected your audience will allow you to offer educational insights, raise awareness and position your organisation as a thought leader and resource provider in your industry. This will help your company increase its visibility and build strong relationships and trust among your key audience. It is also important to be sensitive when pitching ideas to journalists to avoid coming across as opportunistic – the world is still in crisis and any communications must be mindful of this.
Communicate directly to your audience
With face-to-face media set ups trickier, it may be harder to get the media’s attention. Add value to your content and grow engagement through bringing your story to more people through your owned channels and e-commerce platforms. Use your corporate site, social media accounts, videos and the blogs you create to expand your reach. You can also use emails and newsletters to create unique experiences for your audience to help grow your engagement.
Be careful about your pitch and avoid hard-selling as well. Instead, choose the right story and offer solutions when engaging with your audience. People become more receptive to messages that solve their problems, help them learn something new or inspire them. By providing value, you connect with customers and build trust.
Pitching uplifting, positive and inspirational local stories that highlight examples of working with the community during the crisis or running a cause-based campaign with donations to helping pandemic related causes have a strong chance of piquing media interest.
Alternatively, to help your brand stand out and humanize it, look at ways to create a platform for helping people gain skills who have lost their jobs. A great example of this in action is Primark, who announced they would be returning the full £121 million in furlough payments they had claimed. This uplifting news story was picked up across the media, creating a talking point and securing the brand millions of pounds worth of free publicity.
Track media trends
Identifying the best and trending posts on social media will give you a view of what stories are resonating most. It will also give you an idea of your audience’s receptivity to your message and what share of the news is crisis and non-crisis related. It can also provide you with insights on the non-crisis related news people are searching for, leading to possible opportunities and ideas for relevant and newsworthy content.
Many businesses are facing challenges because of the impact of the virus on employee health as well as the economic future. Businesses have also been forced to make redundancies. The media may have queries about these impacts and how you are assisting employees and their families. It is important to think about potential questions and scenarios and be ready to share your insights and authentic viewpoints.
Nurture media relationships
The media industry is also suffering because of the economic shutdown with many printed titles closing. Reporters have huge workloads and are under more stress, so be humane when communicating with them. Kindness goes a long way – it humanizes you and helps foster strong relationships.
In such unprecedented times getting your communication strategy right is more important than ever. Ensuring that the message relayed is honest, consistent and sensitive to your audience will help propel the status of your brand, increasing the chance of securing positive media coverage as well as gaining vital trust from consumers during this time of uncertainty.