What does Communications look like in the new normal?

May 25, 2020

Government shutdowns, public health challenges and huge change to the lives of consumers has resulted in a constantly evolving state-of-play for brands and the re-evaluation of existing and future communications plans. To understand more about how brands are approaching communications during this time, Herd MSL held a panel discussion with communications leaders from Campbell Arnott’s, NBN Co., The South Australia Tourism Commission and Dare Iced Coffee. These were the five key takeaways.

1. You can still build a brand during a crisis.

Consumers are looking to brands to be a trusted partner in hard times and are more likely to continue their loyalty after it. Studies have shown companies that advertise in an economic downturn are more likely to succeed, with Business Insider recently finding people have been 23 percent more attentive to advertising during the coronavirus restrictions.

What role can your brand play in people’s lives during this crisis? As restrictions ease, are you going to help, entertain or even inspire?  Whatever role you play, ensure it’s authentic to your brand and connects with the lived-experience for many.

2. Shift your focus from long-term strategy to execution.

On a pre-pandemic working day many of us would have spent more time on strategy and planning than execution. If this crisis hasn’t already shifted that, it should. Pretty PowerPoints and five year plans have their place, but a plan on a page is perfect for right now. Brands who have managed their communications well through the crisis are the ones who quickly adjusted and flew into action.

Connecting with trusted journalists and workshopping stories they’re interested in rather than wasting time and effort on bulk media roll-outs in a very congested news cycle is also a timesaver in this climate.

3. Create a core crisis team.

To accelerate plans into action with quick, effective decisions, you need a core crisis team with cross-functional representation. Decide on how often you’ll communicate and when you’ll meet so you can move swiftly with the changing situation. Consider dividing teams into those focused on responding and adapting to the immediate situation, and those planning for the longer-term recovery.

4. Think creatively about existing sponsorships and partnerships.

Before throwing out communications plans completely, think creatively about the sponsorships and partnerships already planned and how else you can leverage these to engage with consumers. Dare Ice Coffee did this by gamifying its footy sponsorships, putting their players on the field in an online battle of the codes.

5. Be ahead of the game and try to anticipate consumer consumption and behaviours.

The pace of change through this crisis has taught us that today’s plan may no longer be relevant tomorrow. Look for shifts in consumer consumption and behaviour, and use these to guide and evolve your plans. Be willing to take risks to try things your brand may never have considered before, if it makes sense in the context of changing consumer behaviour. Stay in tune with how your consumers are feeling now to anticipate what they will be wanting next and how best you can support them.

The most important lesson of all? Don’t go dark on your audience. Keep the lights on and you can keep your customers by your side as we move through this crisis. The road to recovery can be a challenging one but many brands can come out the other side stronger and more relevant. With the right plan and team in place, you can not only weather the storm, but ride the waves.

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Herd MSL

Herd MSL is an ANZ public relations and integrated communications agency that provides strategic counsel and creative thinking. We champion our clients’ interests through fearless and insightful campaigns that engage multiple perspectives and holistic thinking to build influence and deliver impact.

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