We’re kicking off a new week with thoughts from Lena about how to plan and deliver effective communications at the moment – arguably, more important than ever right now.
- Adapt your plans
Your communications strategy is planned on sound insight, signed off, and campaigns were running smoothly – and then the country shut down. PR is the discipline at the front line of public feeling and should be the first to adapt and in some cases abandon those plans. You need ensure your brand’s purpose is clear and the message still resonates. Brands that fail to do this can feel out of step, or at worse offensive, with the potential of lifelong damage, whereas those that adapt quickly can have a really positive story to tell. This is demonstrated by our local brewery Adnams which used its distillery to provide alcohol for a national hand sanitiser programme, designed to support the NHS and local organisations that need it most.
- Make it personal
Customers are experiencing a huge personal change in circumstances that is affecting them both financially and emotionally. Brand communication can reassure customers by being personal, coming from spokespeople or employees within your business, talking honestly about how the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown is affecting their lives and work and finding shared ground with stakeholders and customers. Lots of brands are adopting this approach successfully – for example store managers at Iceland rather than the CEO announced the earlier opening times for elderly shoppers, ensuring the brand was communicating within communities.
- Carry on engaging
Fear of being out of step, or a sudden drop in revenue, has pushed many companies into shutting off or abandoning their external communications altogether. We have seen this with tourism and hospitality sector where brands need to quickly reduce overheads. While it might feel futile to continue to look for new customers, it is really important to keep engaging with your existing ones. Whether you are a much loved product or service, you are part of your customers’ lifestyle and while theirs is currently limited, the majority will have more time on their hands, want to stay connected with the world outside their homes and be interested to hear from brands as they plan for the future. At a minimum keep some planned activity via social media, respond to posts, and if you have an appropriate story to tell, contact the media who are also looking to keep their readers connected.
- Arm your employees
Communicating with employees will be top of the list for most businesses, as many roles will have changed, been furloughed or even lost. Most businesses are very good at communicating the facts about change to staff at an individual level, but some are not so good at explaining the impact those changes will have on the brand. Your employees are core to business ethos and are the first point of contact for customers and stakeholders for the brand. Make sure they have the tools to articulate these changes through all the channels they use for their communication, whether that be email, telephone or social media.
- Media are open for business
The seriousness of a global pandemic will make any PR think twice about pitching in a fluffy news story with sales as an overt objective. It is, however, important to remember that our media are still open for business and need the support of brands more than ever to keep the information flowing from the front line to UK households. Good practitioners will work with brands to identify honest stories that work for the brand in line with the news agenda, and will pitch these into journalists they have established relationships with. Businesses can provide important insight into how employees are feeling, the broader state of our economy and how we can all help to do our bit today. Be mindful that media are businesses too, they will be working with skeleton teams so pitch appropriately over email. If budget is available, work with key titles to carry your communications through their channels. Consistent follow up for feedback over the phone should be avoided. Good news will run.