Once restrictions ease up, brands may discover that those that have planned ahead are at a significant advantage. As COVID-19 moves from being a pandemic to an endemic, brands need to go all in – or risk losing out to fast movers. In light of this, how should comms professionals plan campaigns, as they await the lifting of lockdown restrictions?
We ask some of the experts at PRecious to weigh in.
It becomes more apparent that there will not be that one big-bang opening of borders and dropping of restrictions but phased approaches at different speeds in different countries. For brands that means to prepare phased and modular approaches to leverage the opportunities arising from those regained freedoms for individuals and businesses alike. The typical flow will start with a general anticipation, followed by concrete government announcements on measures and timelines – and then the actual date the new phase kicks in.
For communicators this means to walk the fine line between enthusiastically anticipating what’s next and shouting out about it to probably be first to be associated with a topic – and at the same time to have a more balanced approach to not overdoing it and being seen as insensitive or simply unrealistic in promises.
I believe that most impactful campaigns will have to go for the long game, indexing consideration and authenticity of communications over short term creative wins through being witty and bold.
Lars Voedisch, Founder & Managing Director, PRecious Communications
We saw companies initially scramble, then eventually normalise working from home. One thing is certain as COVID-19 moves from pandemic to endemic: While ‘business as usual’ has taken on a different meaning for companies and people, the resilience demonstrated by brands across sectors is remarkable.
While brands often adopt a gantt chart approach towards launches, there should be an allowance for flexibility around timelines. It’s less a sprint to a singular goal post, but rather a concerted jog towards a moving one. However, there needs to be constant movement nonetheless. Brands have also come to realise that, chances are, their competitors aren’t waiting the pandemic out; if anything, there appears to be over communications on online channels to build and retain customer relationships.
Conferences and trade shows have moved to webinars. And then webinar fatigue hit real hard. Amid this changing communications landscape, people continue to crave that personal, human touch. We need to be conscious of reaching out amid burnout.
Brands can view uncertainty as an enhanced pre-launch phase. Expect disruptions in this new normal, but, in the immortal words of Johnnie Walker, keep walking.
Brand progress is nothing more than moving forward, and exhibiting resilience to ride out disruptions. An opportunity to launch can be a more moving goal post.
Prayaank Gupta, Vice President, Growth & Innovation
More than a year after the first lockdowns happened, there is still a lot of uncertainty around the lifting of restrictions, and even the nature of the virus as it constantly evolves. Consumers have a lot of frustration and pent up demand from a year of being stuck at home. Brand communicators are humans too, and subject to the same feelings as everyone else. However, it is important for brand communicators to remove their personal biases and sift through the noise to get to the facts: At this critical juncture, they cannot afford to react and jump on every new pandemic announcement without thinking it through. They need to ensure a considered approach that is not just reactive to the latest update, but which is relevant to their overall brand message and can withstand the test of time.
Brands which take the time to understand the needs of their target audiences today, and develop products, services and messages that cater to these needs, will stand to gain in the long run.
It’s not about getting it out first, but about getting it right first.
Clarence Lim, Practice Head, INC
Companies were forced to walk a tight rope last year and campaign spends did see a visible dip. Finding anchor in today’s world of volatility has become much harder. But regardless of the current uncertain nature of the pandemic with sudden, disruptive restrictions being imposed in several regional markets, brands should have pivot their marketing and communications approach for this new normal by now.
In several ways, the pandemic has put a premium on speed and authenticity. New campaigns should lead with authentic, personalised messaging and factor in key addressable media that delivers at the speed of curiosity and hype cycles. Lastly, beyond the solutions and products one offers, technology brands need to stand behind meaningful values.
Rajiv Menon, Practice Head, Edge
As the environment changes, brand communicators need to shift goals and strategies. A central challenge is adapting PR to meet a changed news environment – dominated by coronavirus stories, and a news cycle moving at a pace faster than the speed in pre-pandemic times. But beyond getting featured in publications, brands should likewise focus on bolstering their internal engagement strategies – employees, after all, are an organisation’s greatest asset. Brands should continuously show how much they value their employees by rewarding and thanking them.
Brands have to move quickly to ensure their messages are relevant, relatable and respectful. In addition, how brands tell their stories is important. New and more timely angles are necessary. Develop content around distancing, shelter-in-place, quarantine and virtual experiences, which continue to be relevant topics.
Kiranjeet Sidhu, Client Services Director, Malaysia
As we move further along in the new normal, we need to learn how to adapt – whether in business or in our everyday lifestyles. The most affected industries in the pandemic are the restaurant, hospitality and tourism businesses – and these include small businesses located in tourist areas as well. There is no telling when the pandemic will end (or if it will even end at all).
Business hygiene has become of paramount importance in the new normal. And brands should leverage this, as they work on building and strengthening consumer confidence towards their services. Highlighting the importance of good hygiene practices, or creating new hygiene standards in the industry they’re in is a good tactic – this will continue to be relevant, even as COVID moves from being a pandemic to an endemic.
Busakorn Srisongkhroh, Thailand Market Lead
This month, Indonesia authorities have enforced emergency public activity restrictions (PPKM Darurat) in Java and Bali, as Indonesia surpassed 1,000 daily deaths – the highest since the pandemic started in March 2020. This has moved brands to a slightly different direction as they struggle to work together with the government to flatten the curve, while keeping the company moving. Some businesses still practice WFO, however – leading employees to raise concerns.
Amid this business environment, it is becoming even more essential to enhance internal communications alongside external communications. Companies need to constantly assure internal stakeholders that they have their best interests at heart – especially employee safety and wellness. This can go a long way towards fostering trust and loyalty in the company. After all, a healthy business is built and run by healthy people.
Joyce Rodwina, Indonesia Market Lead