Don’t Just Communicate, But Connect with Audiences

Every company has been affected heavily by recent events related to COVID-19. The role of the communications professional is now more important than ever.

Now is not the time to vanish from your audiences or internal teams in the hopes that things will just resume as normal in a few weeks. Even if the nation-wide quarantine were lifted tomorrow, there’s no denying that the world has changed with how much everyone has been affected. Brands are realizing that how they handle their communications now will deeply affect their perception well after these events.

That means that most brands, naturally, are doing their part communicating. What you want to avoid as a result is just saying the same thing as everyone else. Your audiences have heard the same message countless times. At this point, the purpose of your message is not just to communicate, but to connect.

How to Connect Through Your Communications During COVID-19

During this global pandemic, what we’ve observed is 3 phases of communication:

1.REACTION – to current events

2.REBOUNDING – finding ways to cope to a new normal in our lives

3.REINVENTING – adapting to the state of affairs and developing new services and products to match new needs.

Phase 1: REACT

At the beginning of the nationwide lockdown, what we witnessed is a wave of “reactionary communications” explaining how organizations are coping with the situation. “We’ve shifted our hours”, “we’re working remotely”, “this is what we’re doing to help clients & employees”, etc; these showed that companies are acknowledging the severity of the situation and are pledging the effort to properly accommodate their members and community with the unique situation. This is just the tip of the iceberg of your overall COVID communications strategy, but your message should remain heartfelt and sincere.

Take Galen Weston’s example from Loblaws for example:

Phase 2: REBOUND

This is all about understanding the new normal. The world has changed; how is your brand fitting in with a different lifestyle? Take Burger King in France, for example, who after being closed completely put out ads to show customers how to make a whopper at home

To rebound, you need to think about how you can help people ease into this new lifestyle and entertain them during it. After all, at this stage, we’re a little tired of hearing about all of the negative things happening during COVID and many people are focused on keeping positive and active while in isolation.

Right now, one of those biggest obstacles to staying positive isn’t doom and gloom, but boredom. Searches for the word “bored” has increased by as much as 626% recently.

Even if your brand is entertainment-focused, it doesn’t mean you can’t find creative ways to entertain. Chipotle connected with zoom to create a virtual hangout for 3000 fans with celebrity appearances, and also gave away free burritos. A win-win situation for anyone. What Chipotle did well was focus on the evidently growing audience of virtual meeting tools like Zoom to reach their otherwise-lost markets. So ask yourself as well: How can your company leverage virtual events to connect with your customers or help employees connect with one another? Maybe you have someone at your company who loves food and can lead a cooking class, or maybe you can create a forum for parents to share ideas

Phase 3: REINVENT

Everyone’s now talking about the fact that when all of this is over – and we have no idea when that will be – we will not be going back to “life as usual.” It will be a different world after COVID-19. People have opened their eyes to instant online delivery, online grocery shopping, and new forms of indoor entertainment. This is a perfect time to experiment, or even pivot, with your business as the markets have been turned upside down. We’re seeing pedestrian navigation apps make changes to include social distancing features and companies like sports gear companies like Bauer turning to make medical protective gear.

Today’s business landscape is all about purpose. Now that you’ve reacted and rebounded, it is time to confront the newfound challenges brought forth by COVIID-19. The purpose is more important now than ever. Consumers will be looking for ways to create a more sustainable world.

You may have to redefine your purpose, like Nike’s “Play for the World” campaign. It was a pivot from their usual “Just Do It” campaign which focuses heavily on personal effort and perseverance. This new campaign took that self-same vibe and energy that they’ve built over the years and put it in a global community perspective, all while cautioning their follower base to live safely during COVID-19.

How you reinvent your purpose and branding will have to respond directly to the prevalent emotions of today – many of whom which been sobered by the effects COVID-19 has had on personal loved ones, jobs, local businesses, and the economy as a whole. Right now the brands that are thriving are those that show both empathy for those concerns, and the inspiration to get through it. Those are the ones that will excel even through these times.

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