Credit: Laura Makaltses
As the world is grappling with COVID-19, the communications and marketing industry, just like many others, had to prioritise their focus overnight. To the core of what makes a brand tick – communicating with their customers.
Kelly Frederickson, CEO of MullenLowe said,
“Most consumers don’t mind hearing from brands as long as it is a solution,” where we are not trying to sell something, but we are trying to solve something.” (source).
And that’s how the communications landscape has shifted, where it’s not and should not be ‘business as usual’ before, during and after COVID-19. Instead, brands should acknowledge the new reality and realise a ‘new normal’ is here to stay. During this time, it is imperative to keep communicating and not go AWOL. Now is the time where meaningful relationships can be built and maintained even during a crisis.
As we review and update our marketing strategy, here is the team’s take on the new marketing landscape post-COVID-19:
1) Be human. Bring out your emotional intelligence.
From Gal Gadot’s tone-deaf coronavirus ‘Imagine’ singalong with celebrities to Emily Crisps brilliant outdoor marketing campaign right on the cusp of the lockdown in the UK, brands and celebrities alike are walking a very tightrope during COVID-19. What sets big names apart are their ability to put an empathetic heart at the centre of their communications. Or what we like to call in our business, learn to “read the room”.
Credit: Samuel Rodriguez
Joan Liew, a senior consultant, recalls her personal experience during the lockdown,
“…eDMs that are pushing products to my face has won little favour with me. They have missed the chance to show me empathy and bring me into the conversation of being a part of their purpose and value.
What businesses do during this time matters. The role of communications now and post COVID-19, is more critical than ever. Our industry is the gatekeeper and has a strategic role to play in advising leaders and the business of what should and should not be allowed during such times. We need to keep pulse not just with what’s on the news but factor the emotions and psyche of who the brand is reaching – their audience. If uncertain, less is more.”
2) A robust internal communications plan is critical in setting a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in motion.
At a time like this, the true self of a brand shows itself to its consumers and more importantly, it’s employees, which is why a solid foundation of a BCP is essential from the get-go.
Here’s what Jocelyn Ng-Foo, founder and managing partner has to say,
“Communications is instrumental in carrying through Business Continuity Plans (BCP) changes, allay fears and address questions from staff. A vacuum of information only fans the flame of rumours and false news. Internal communications continue to play a critical role currently during the circuit breaker to support employees’ mental health and wellbeing.”
A sound BCP in a COVID – 19 world, stabilises a company’s strategic, operational, organisational and financial change.
3) Tech will start playing an even more active role in regulating fake news.
The rise of fake news around the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented and putting more lives at risk. People are expecting up to date information given to them by government organisations and health authorities. And they want it fast.
Credit: Ruth Burrows
As Ruiqi, account executive noted,
“…people are now more wary of news on social media, as there is a lot of false news during this period. Post COVID-19, there might also be an inevitable increase of fast communications to the public regarding issues through the use of social media. On the other hand, the prevalence of fake news has increased the credibility and authenticity of traditional media, and as PR practitioners, we are in a better position to influence the news agenda.”
Which is why, tech giants like Google are stepping in to curb misinformation, by collaborating with the Singapore government to implement an online chatbot to help answer citizens’ most common questions. Whatsapp and Facebook are also partnering with government health organisations and UN health agencies to share accurate information. And we will continue to see how tech will play an intricately part in online communications.
Also, news media are already turning to what’s happening across the digital space to pick up trending stories. No longer is media the ‘first’ to make the news. The lines are blurred, and roles reversed. And as communications experts, we need to guide our clients in embracing non-traditional media IF they haven’t already.
4) The demise of ‘spin doctors’ and rise of (the REAL DEAL) transparency
What has become strikingly apparent these past few months is that transparency matters. It has flattened the COVID-19 curve in South Korea. It has also prosecuted netizens for criticising officials, for the lack of it in Indonesia. Transparency has to be a philosophy moving forward.
As Shawn Foo, co-founder put it,
“Now an estimated 3 months on to this virus outbreak, I don’t think there has been a change in how the Singapore Government communicates in large part to the people about the situation despite the increasing affected numbers and sprouts of safe-distancing breaches.
I am looking at the whole process/stages of this crisis, what remains constant – transparency. That in mind, I firmly believe corporates of all sizes should take it more seriously as part of their business strategy.”
But Wait, There’s More!
5) Websites, apps and optimising for mobile-first has never been more important now.
With the lockdown, retail brick-and-mortar stores are closed, and sales have plummeted. However, brands that have eCommerce offerings and direct-to-consumer marketing have skyrocketed in sales. Due to isolation laws, there are more and more people searching for products and services online. Websites are brands first touchpoint. People are still researching, upskilling, checking out the competition and using their spare time online. They are working out with apps and Youtube channels.
According to Statista, a global survey held in March 2020 revealed that “70 per cent of responding internet users worldwide were using their smartphones or mobile phones more as a direct result of the coronavirus outbreak, though this varied significantly by country.” Thus optimising for mobile-first, development of websites and boosting your client’s online presence to stay relevant has to take precedence over the usual marketing plans
As COVID-19 rages on, what’s needed is awareness, mindful action, and above all, agility at delivering our messages. Much as there is beauty in traditional ways of communicating, simple, effective and open communications are critical with employees and customers alike. After all, as a brand isn’t that what your purpose should be? As a marketing professional, shouldn’t we strive for authentic communications?