The current global landscape has taught us how to deftly navigate the world of PR and marketing throughout COVID-19. Last week, we explored some of the communications trends we’ve been seeing from companies lately, and those we predict will continue in the post-COVID era. We want to continue with these observations, by diving a bit deeper into what we’ve been seeing in the digital realm.
Here are a few more current lessons we’ve learned for the challenges of tomorrow:
New Digital Reality
For the past decade or so, there’s been a dramatic change in the way we do business in our new digital reality. The speed and accessibility of information has really changed how consumers assess and evaluate a brand.
At UPRAISE, we’ve been inundated with requests from C-suite executives asking us to help them manage their reputations on social media. More recently, they’ve been looking to enhance their communication with their audience and increase their vulnerability and transparency on the cultural and societal issues that are happening right now. These are high-visibility executives that have a direct line to people and consumers, so having a heightened awareness of the context of the posts they’re publishing has become increasingly important as they strive to generate a sense of intimacy with their audiences.
Social media is amazing because of the amount of data it produces for us. The challenge for marketers is distilling that data, determining the key takeaways, and acting quickly when mapping next steps.
Another challenge that comes with trying to develop messaging right now is determining which data sets are anecdotal and which provide actionable insights. Our job is to filter through all the data, then apply our judgement to make data-driven decisions that drive outcomes.
Social media is a double-edged sword. It offers a window into culture and enables brands to have direct interactions with consumers, but at the same time, it exposes brands to criticism and feedback. Consumers today are very savvy. They can see through posturing and have very high demands of the brands they support, so there is a risk with social media marketing if you’re not in touch with your audience.
However, in times like these, social media also has more to offer by being able to tap into cultural moments and provide people and companies an opportunity to understand different cultures that they may not have been exposed to otherwise. Social media is also beneficial because you’re receiving instant feedback, providing insight into which messages are working and which aren’t working so well. A basic rule of thumb is to approach sensitive topics with respect and an in-depth understanding of the issue at hand.
In an extremely sensitive market, how can you use this time the best you can, while making sure you are being palatable? Without a doubt, the best thing you can do is to speak with a voice that’s true to your company values. You can’t be afraid to take a risk, even though it’s uncomfortable. Showing support for the struggle of your consumers will never be a bad decision, if it’s truly what you believe in. Conversations surrounding finance, health, race, etc. have rarely been discussed openly in a workplace environment before, so it’s okay to ask questions and be vulnerable if you don’t have the right answer.
These new market dynamics have fundamentally shifted the brand-consumer relationship. Consumers are no longer just buying brands for their “what,” but paying closer attention to their “why.” Companies can no longer tailor their responses to different groups of consumers. Who they are as a company is who they are—and they need to stick to that.
We used to be more protective of the brand being something that we, as PR professionals, shape. What we’ve learned from the current environment is that we are now co-creating the brand’s reputation with consumers, and we have to accept that sometimes this is messy.
Acts, Not Ads
There is a demand for brands to not just talk at people, but to actually take action. We’ve seen some great examples of this, like when Louis Vuitton shifted their operation to produce hand sanitizer, and other companies shifting to make parts for ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE), etc. Marketers are being urged to embrace “Act, Not Ads,” a push for brands to take action in regards to what they stand for, rather than continuing to push their products.
Does your company have the fortitude to figure out what you’ll take forward from all of this? How will you keep your organization from going back to business as usual? Because consumers have no interest in going back.
If you sat this moment out, for whatever reason, that’s okay; but, use the momentum of this moment in time to become more prepared for future events by developing a brand strategy that’s fluid and agile. The main takeaway is that brands can always improve, and we need to be better at guiding that change. Everyone should be cognizant of how societal challenges could potentially derail an otherwise perfect marketing campaign.
So even if you’re not ready to participate in the conversation of the moment, how do you prepare to respond to the next one? What are your company’s values? What is your purpose? And how can you authentically move the needle in society? These are all questions you need to consider as we approach the post-COVID era.