Insights

Shift your brand communications for the next phase of the pandemic

Posted by
Adrienne Connell
Insights

Shift your brand communications for the next phase of the pandemic

Écrit par
Adrienne Connell

Spring has never felt more hopeful than this one, with provinces across Canada (and countries around the world) slowly opening back up for business. This process will be gradual, and not without its challenges, but it’s a positive indicator that a more livable phase of the pandemic is within our grasp. As organizations grapple with the many dimensions of what this means, marketing and communication professionals are left to determine what’s appropriate and what isn’t for brands in a new state of normal.

While there is no playbook for how to navigate this next phase, we can write it, starting with a few principles of good marketing communications:

Plan, pivot, repeat

All good communications start with a plan that clearly defines your goals and the path you’ll take to get there. The need for a plan during recovery doesn’t change but how often you re-visit your plan changes dramatically. Come back to your plan weekly, or even daily, to re-assess whether your approach still makes sense. Is it appropriate to reach out to media right now with that story? How will this customer promotion be received? Are we targeting all the right audiences with this message?

Thankfully, a user survey conducted by Twitter indicates that audiences are open to hearing from brands during the pandemic and an earlier study from Kantar shows even more promise, with 92% of people saying brands should continue to advertise. Even with these survey results, organizations can get bogged down by analysis paralysis; instead they need to focus on making responsible decisions swiftly. Your team’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and then updating your plan accordingly, will be a large part of what helps your brand emerge successfully on the other side of this pandemic.

Always be listening

The smartest marcom strategies are rooted in audience insights. Many brands still don’t spend enough time and effort listening to their customers, their employees, media and other stakeholders, despite having access to more data than ever before. Less than 27% of organizations say they’ve been successful in creating a data-driven culture in a 2020 survey conducted by NewVantage Partners.

In challenging times, getting a pulse on and taking cues from your audiences through data is even more critical. Recovery is going to be slow (and hopefully steady) and it will vary significantly from one place to the next. Your brand communications need to be carefully choreographed and in tune with what is happening at a local or microlevel. Gather audience information, both quantitative and qualitative, to help you better understand what pressures your audiences may still be facing, how they are feeling and what they need right now. Then determine how your brand is uniquely positioned (or not) to help. Now is not the time for a mass market approach without careful consideration. Use the insights you’ve gathered to tailor and target your storytelling and programs effectively.

Be human

Brands can appear faceless at times, though thankfully that’s declining in the age of authenticity and transparency. This is not the time to hide behind your brand but instead to step out in front of it. Consider how you can infuse the voices of your leaders, your employees and your customers into your marcom efforts through the recovery period. After weeks or even months of social distancing, we are all craving more human connection, and brands can be part of the solution by shining a bright light on the people that surround them. After all, what is a brand without the community it builds up around it? Find everyday moments to celebrate, provide empathetic support and showcase the people that will help us all to find a way forward.

Looking for more communications guidance during the COVID-19 recovery period? Check out our communication evaluation checklist which asks a series of simple questions to help you determine what communications are right for your brand right now.

Spring has never felt more hopeful than this one, with provinces across Canada (and countries around the world) slowly opening back up for business. This process will be gradual, and not without its challenges, but it’s a positive indicator that a more livable phase of the pandemic is within our grasp. As organizations grapple with the many dimensions of what this means, marketing and communication professionals are left to determine what’s appropriate and what isn’t for brands in a new state of normal.

While there is no playbook for how to navigate this next phase, we can write it, starting with a few principles of good marketing communications:

Plan, pivot, repeat

All good communications start with a plan that clearly defines your goals and the path you’ll take to get there. The need for a plan during recovery doesn’t change but how often you re-visit your plan changes dramatically. Come back to your plan weekly, or even daily, to re-assess whether your approach still makes sense. Is it appropriate to reach out to media right now with that story? How will this customer promotion be received? Are we targeting all the right audiences with this message?

Thankfully, a user survey conducted by Twitter indicates that audiences are open to hearing from brands during the pandemic and an earlier study from Kantar shows even more promise, with 92% of people saying brands should continue to advertise. Even with these survey results, organizations can get bogged down by analysis paralysis; instead they need to focus on making responsible decisions swiftly. Your team’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and then updating your plan accordingly, will be a large part of what helps your brand emerge successfully on the other side of this pandemic.

Always be listening

The smartest marcom strategies are rooted in audience insights. Many brands still don’t spend enough time and effort listening to their customers, their employees, media and other stakeholders, despite having access to more data than ever before. Less than 27% of organizations say they’ve been successful in creating a data-driven culture in a 2020 survey conducted by NewVantage Partners.

In challenging times, getting a pulse on and taking cues from your audiences through data is even more critical. Recovery is going to be slow (and hopefully steady) and it will vary significantly from one place to the next. Your brand communications need to be carefully choreographed and in tune with what is happening at a local or microlevel. Gather audience information, both quantitative and qualitative, to help you better understand what pressures your audiences may still be facing, how they are feeling and what they need right now. Then determine how your brand is uniquely positioned (or not) to help. Now is not the time for a mass market approach without careful consideration. Use the insights you’ve gathered to tailor and target your storytelling and programs effectively.

Be human

Brands can appear faceless at times, though thankfully that’s declining in the age of authenticity and transparency. This is not the time to hide behind your brand but instead to step out in front of it. Consider how you can infuse the voices of your leaders, your employees and your customers into your marcom efforts through the recovery period. After weeks or even months of social distancing, we are all craving more human connection, and brands can be part of the solution by shining a bright light on the people that surround them. After all, what is a brand without the community it builds up around it? Find everyday moments to celebrate, provide empathetic support and showcase the people that will help us all to find a way forward.

Looking for more communications guidance during the COVID-19 recovery period? Check out our communication evaluation checklist which asks a series of simple questions to help you determine what communications are right for your brand right now.

Adrienne Connell
Senior Vice President & Partner
FHR’s Social & Digital practice is one of FH’s global hubs for social and innovation, and the only one in the Canadian market. A recognized leader in the global FH network, Adrienne is sought after for her strategic approach to helping brands embrace digital innovation and transform how they communicate.
Adrienne Connell
Vice-présidente principale et associée
La pratique de campagnes sociales et numériques de FHR est l’un des centres d’innovation mondiaux de FH en matière de communications sociales, en plus d’être la seule du marché canadien. Adrienne se distingue au sein du réseau FH mondial par son sens du leadership, en plus d’être appréciée pour l’approche stratégique qu’elle adopte lorsqu’elle aide les marques à accueillir l’innovation numérique et à transformer leur manière de communiquer.