The current situation in the UK and around the world has changed the way we do business and the way we communicate now and possibly going forward.
Businesses have traditionally based their communication on the tried and tested approach of thinking strategically and acting tactically. We would like to add a third consideration for how you communicate and do business.
Operate strategically, tactically and spiritually - communicate in a way that uplifts the human spirit in these difficult times, as opposed to driving material or physical gains. We may just be entering a new era of kindness.
Build and strengthen relationships
In the current period of uncertainty, the single most achievable KPI that a business can hit effectively is to build and strengthen relationships.
While sales and revenue will be affected dramatically, your ability to communicate, other than face to face, will not. Take this time to build closer relationships with key audiences: suppliers, the bank, staff, consumers and the media. Every hour spent on this during the crisis will pay dividends.
Plan now for the future
The one thing that is certain is that this period will pass.
Most brands have pushed the activation budgets beyond the three-month quarantine phase. While maintaining a housekeeping approach from March-June, they are planning a busy late summer and Christmas. It is important that you are in a position to take advantage of the recovery period, whenever that comes
This is especially important to those that export to Asia, as we are seeing the virus’s effect appears to be passing for some Asian clients who now want to come back online and start business as usual. Keep an eye on the situation in your key markets. Countries will exit the crisis to a different timeline and be prepared for this.
What activations did and did not work in the last year? How can they be improved?
Take this time to review your messaging and brand values. Has the current situation changed how you are perceived by consumers and where you sit in the market place?
Will your messages still resonate once we exit this, do they need revising? We think that these troubled times will trigger a period of reflection and we are yet to see what consumers will want on the other side and how they will behave.
During this period of lockdown, businesses should shift the focus of their communications.
Most of us focus 75-80% of our effort on the consumer. That needs to change. Your key audiences are the consumer, media, your business partners and your staff. Split your comms to 50/50 across internal and external comms.
Communicating regularly with these four groups as you navigate the next 3-4 months will help you build those relationships we highlighted earlier as an achievable KPI.
There is a growing list of companies that have experienced PR disasters in how they have handled the pivoting and restructuring of their businesses in the last ten days. The common threads across those businesses is that they have an autocratic style of management, make self-interested decisions and communicate in an abrasive tone of voice.
Consider your next steps carefully and how you communicate them. Be responsible. No one likes a loud voice and people want to hear compassion and empathy.
Don’t talk if you have nothing to say
We have all been bombarded by endless emails from the hospitality sector on the health measures they have taken in the face of COVID-19. Yes, we get it, and would expect these steps to be standard practice anyway. Do not feel the urge to continually communicate unless you have something compelling to say.
Keep your communication informative, practical, interesting and concise. We all want to open emails that help us tackle what is ahead of us and that make us feel positive. Too many businesses are just regurgitating the advice we already know from government and surveys saying ‘90% of the creative industry says the government is not doing enough’ do not help anyone.
If you are engaging the broadcast media have a unique, different angle. Some brands have done this well in taking advantage of the need for information from business.
The media is changing
Be aware of what your media are doing. While some publications are suspending print versions and going 100% digital, others like the Evening Standard are pushing the printed paper in a clever move to fill the gap in London. So stay across these developments.
Pick up the phone
While we all work remotely, the press will be inundated with emails and you may find it difficult to cut through. Pick up the phone if you have direct lines or mobile numbers and engage in conversation. In tough times this under used form of communication is coming to the fore. It allows a more personal approach for your communications. It’s good to talk.
Timing is everything
React to enquiries in an efficient and speedy fashion as this will reassure the consumer, staff and business partners.
Establish a timetable and routines for internal comms with your staff and business partners. Strengthen those relationships with regular contact and reassurance.
Be aware of the timings of the news cycle as it evolves during the crisis. The cycle now revolves around the daily press conferences by the Prime Minister (5pm) and the White House (5pm EST), the announcement by the NHS of the number of infections and fatalities (usually around 3-4pm). Understand when is the best time to execute your comms and be sensitive to the agenda of the day.
This may be an incredibly tough time to do business, but it is also an opportunity to show the compassionate and better nature of us all. As we said earlier, we could be entering a new era of kindness. What we do now will be repaid exponentially in the future.
Take time to contact others
Take time to build those relationships, helping others and sharing the unique challenges of the coming months. Stay in touch and show concern for the welfare of your staff and business partners.
Have you picked up the phone to your suppliers to see how they are doing? When did you last call your staff and ask how they are?
Help pass the time
Share practical, interesting ways to beat the blues of 12 weeks of lockdown with your audiences. If you have useful content which can be shared, now is the time to be putting this out there.
If you can, be generous. Many brands are offering discounts to NHS staff during this period. Some have also asked those staff who are furloughed to help their local communities during this period in return for full pay. Consider what you might be able to offer to help those around you.
Worry about your community
What can you do to help your business’s immediate community? If you can, focus on those around you with simple actions that are easy to exercise. Think Global after the virus, act Local now.