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How to restructure your content and PR Strategies during a crisis

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 03 Jun, 2020
Essential Essential topic

Don’t go quiet with your comms, but do avoid tone-deaf marketing

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the whole world to a standstill, reshaping the way we must approach almost all aspects of life. With health and safety being the priority, businesses must find their own way to approach the pandemic and rework their strategies to ensure they can continue to operate effectively. While many elements of our life are only changed on a temporary basis, we do not know for how long this will continue, and which elements may never return to how they were before.

The virtual world has become more important than ever before and the ability to connect with our family, friends and colleagues on a remote basis is crucial for any semblance of normality, our wellbeing and to maintain any business activity at all.

However, while many things are at a standstill, one area which is absolutely in demand, is the internet and the information it can provide. Virgin Media believes internet usage, at least in the day time, has at least doubled, during the lockdown period. If you’re an online content creator, content marketer or involved in digital marketing for your business on any level, this really could be your time to shine.

With a little reconfiguration and prioritising of the new normal, you can quickly adapt your content and calendars to the new world. Switching up your usual editorial and social calendar for something more suitable to the current climes is essential for maintaining some level of success and, importantly, brand relevance throughout this crisis period.

Adapting to change for successful communications

Industries such as hospitality and travel have been hardest hit by the current crisis and so their approach to content and marketing has to completely change. No longer can the focus be solely on the promotion and sale of products or services, as they are simply not in demand. And this approach could result in a truly negative response from the consumer. Accusations of tone-deaf marketing are the last thing brands need in a climate where sales have already taken a tumble.

We are in a time of great change and the need to adapt is palpable. Brands need to create content and campaigns that are relevant to both their audiences and their employees…and within available budget.

From the perspective of our teams and colleagues, it is important not to underestimate the impact on them this change in the working environment and situation has caused. Invite your teams to become a part of your strategy, encourage your staff to generate their own content and in turn, use this to align yourself with your customers.

Strong remote teams need support and while it can’t be 24/7, you can work in a way that ensures they feel you’re on their side and you appreciate their efforts. The content you produce could even reflect this, demonstrating how you are working remotely via tools such as Zoom and safeguarding each other in this way.

Strong management teams will also look for ways to make flexi-work as easy and accessible for all employees as possible, investing in the tools needed for success, from payroll and accounting software for quicker wage processing to the right video conferencing and campaign development software for stronger engagement internally and externally.

From a client perspective, we need to find more creative and inventive ways to grab their attention. Straight ad revenue simply isn’t going to bring in the results you’re looking for and many users are becoming savvy and installing effective ad blocking software and using ad-free browsers. Instead, sticky content is the future.

Create helpful, insightful information that supports customers in the current crisis, rather than forcing anything upon them. To-do lists, helpful resources and engaging videos are a great place to start. Your marketing strategies can be tweaked and even rewritten where necessary to ensure clients in all sectors understand that you understand.

It is a worry that companies are dropping profits and losing clients on a regular basis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but rather than be overwhelmed with stress, we need to act proactively to avoid the same. The way to do this is to look at everything from a personal level and think about providing what individual people want from your brand, rather than thinking about the bottom line.

Indeed, the recent Edelman Trust barometer showed that 71% of people will lose trust in brands and companies that place profits before people in a crisis. With this in mind you need to get your PR activities just right to avoid the potential of huge losses. Below is a closer look at how to practically manage your PR and content strategies at this time:

Invest in video

Video content is more personal, genuine and human than any other kind of content there is. It allows your clients to see the “real you” and warm to your business’ personality and get to know the people within your business a little better. You don’t need to invest financially in video; many of our friends and colleagues and put videos together with varying degrees of success – find a competent colleague, learn editing skills yourself, or maybe you are lucky enough to have a cracking Design Studio in your business.

Whereas you may have created short, snappy sales videos before, now it’s all about providing a little extra, taking a little more time, and appearing supportive and reliable in your campaigns. This applies to any written or pictorial content too, with this example from payments provider, Planet, creating the perfect tone.

Sentiment over quality

Creating the perfect video is no longer what people are looking for. Even if you consider the national news at present, experts and speakers are being called in on sketchy mobile connections but the value of their message is no less.

People care more about your message than the quality of the production right now, so don’t get hung up on a little blur or the occasional child running in the background of a conference call. Nobody is expecting perfection right now, and it adds to the human, genuine nature of how everybody is working at the moment.

Listen to your audience

Your audience are probably more vocal now than ever before. Look at what they’re saying, what they’re publishing, and how they’re interacting with your business or even your Team if you’re in marketing, communications and PR.

Create content that answers their questions, gives them a smile for the right reason, and helps them feel comfortable and secure with your business in the current climate. While this isn’t going to generate instant sales, you’ll be a brand they remember when things do begin to return to normal.

When Brands get it Wrong

There have unfortunately been a whole spate of brands who have missed the mark when it comes to content during this global pandemic. ASOS and their chainmail facemask have come across as particularly tasteless in the current climate. Similarly, GEICO were unlucky to launch their “Perfect High Five” commercial at the worst possible moment, in time with the spread of the Coronavirus across the world.

While it would be unfair to say these campaigns tried to take advantage of the pandemic, they were badly timed and should have been pulled before they became public knowledge. They serve as examples, amongst many others, of how not to manage your brand reputation, marketing, communications, and PR outreach strategies during a crisis, and can help to show us not what to do when planning our own communications.

While the number one message of the current crisis is to stay safe and focus our efforts on being as healthy and vigilant as possible, work cannot fully halt. As a creative, it is your job to find ways to provide positive and supportive communications in the current climate, to help push your brand forward, and not misjudge your audience’s sentiment.

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By Expert commentator

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Business and marketing response to Coronavirus COVID-19

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