A guide for marketing, advertising and public relations strategy during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a veil of uncertainty over economies across the world. Both individuals and businesses find themselves unable to effectively plan for the long term as they focus on survival and sustenance in the here and now. With lockdowns forcing many companies to shut their doors, retrenchments, lay offs and wage reductions only exacerbate the already dreary outlook for local and international trade. Consider also, the difficulty business people and consumers have when attempting to define what the “new normal” may be. As nations seek a return to some semblance of regularity, one thing is certain, things will never be the same again. All is not lost to doom and gloom though, this is a time for prudent brand managers to hold their ground and even dare to advance their position. So what should you do if you want your brand to be among the best?
Put Empathy and Transparency First. Even while the Trinidad and Tobago government eases lockdown restrictions, people have a general feeling of unease and vulnerability owing to the unpredictability COVID-19 has served up for the coming months. While sales are important, be sure to meet your customers with messages that empathise with their feelings and avoid appealing to their fears if you can. It’s predictable that brands that seek to exploit current conditions will be doing major damage to their reputation. By tactfully modifying your brand voice to connect with people’s desire for well being, appreciation for human endeavour and solidarity toward a resolution of the current situation brands will elevate their position in the hearts and minds of customers. Beware though, that insincere messages and endeavours can bring unwanted negative spotlight to you and your brand and be tremendously damaging to its reputation. Consider the backlash Trinidadian Ministers and NGO’s receive when the public perceives relief hamper distributions as exercises for public relations rather than actions in altruism.
Be Adaptive As The New Normal Shapes Up Business will never be the same again, it has already changed dramatically and the future is still unfolding. Businesses that had invested in e-commerce and s-commerce before COVID-19 have shown to be markedly more resilient and prepared to face the new economic reality. Those who weren’t prepared have taken massive hits to their revenue as most brick and mortar businesses remain closed. Forced to stay home, customers have been turning to web and social media stores to fulfil their needs. From need identification to search, comparison and purchase, the entire customer journey has migrated online, to the digital realm. Video conferencing has also become by and large the standard for business meetings and even the most rigid organisations have had to open up to flexible working arrangements. The dynamics of the working world and customer expectations from businesses have dramatically shifted toward more digital means as technology facilitates remote, digital user experiences and journeys. Those organisations still not awake to the need to change and adapt are more likely to fall to the wayside, further behind their more adaptive competitors.
Build In More Agility The already dynamic 21st century economic environment has been turned on its head. Public Relations for any brand in this current climate requires agility to craft messages suitable to changing circumstances. As business models and consumer shopping pattens flux in the wake of COVID-19, brand managers need to be ready and able to respond. The world is facing an ever changing and evolving situation and brand managers must make efforts to keep up. The information on best practices for public safety and the imposed regulations on businesses have been ever changing. If brands want to maintain their relevance and authentic value they must be prudent to respond well to changes occurring in the environment around them.
Understand what is expected of you Businesses have a major responsibility for encouraging safety and ensuring social distancing protocols are well adhered to in store. Don’t leave yourself open to criticism for shoddy preparations. Consider also adjusting your sales mantras, remembering that consumers are generally more anxious and concerned with securing basic necessities during this time. Any attempt to exploit fears or sell unnecessary products and services may be taken as a lack of concern for society and place a brand in a position of disrepute. Provide the basics well and focus on the needs of customers in terms of demand, this will enable you to positively enhance your brand perception and put you in an excellent position for identifying future trends as the economy unfreezes.
Where you can, invest in R&D If you're forced to limit your operations or expecting a sustained downturn in your sector, consider investing in market research for developing both your communications and value proposition. Given that online activity has skyrocketed and is expected to remain high through the reduction of restrictions it's a good time to engage customers in online surveys, grow community discussions to mine for authentic ideas or simply ask customers questions via your social media profiles. The best thing you can do is learn about your customers and how to better serve their wants and needs.With trade at drop low levels, there's less customer traffic to compete over so instigate product or service enhancements you can make to draw that demand to your supply.
The digital transformation was well and alive before Covid-19 and has been thoroughly and wholesomely accelerated as consumers and employees embrace digital experiences and journeys. The myriad of technologies and tools at the feet of digital strategic marketers will enable the excellent brands to swiftly change how they operate and portray themselves, staying relevant to their customers. We’re all on the look out for what comes next so it’s up to you to make your brand a leader amidst the coming changes in how the world thinks and operates. It's up to you to find the opportunities to move your business or brand forward and find the silver linings among the dark clouds of the coronavirus.