Nothing has tested business resilience like Covid-19. We have had to dig deep to adapt, to survive, and to find a way forward. Deciding what to do has been half the battle. The other half has been to effectively communicate it and bring your customers along with you.
After months of lockdown, non-essential business have been able to doors – the latest significant step in getting back to some resemblance of a pre-Covid world. So, what does this mean for your communications?
Susannah Morgan, Energy PR's deputy managing director, tackles the challenge of how best to communicate with customers, given the difficulties that many are facing amid the pandemic. She offers businesses her top tips for adapting their communications to make them appropriate to the times.
Be considerate of your audience
First, consider the mindset of your audience. Remember that for some people stores opening does not make a lot of difference. Many families are still juggling working from home with looking after their kids. For many people, emerging from lockdown will take time. There will be lots of questions and potential anxiety so customers will need expectations managed carefully, as well as reassurance that coming to stores will be a safe and positive experience.
If people have become comfortable shopping online during lockdown, what benefit does a bricks and mortar store offer? Can they touch merchandise? If not, how will you overcome this? Are there more barriers to purchase now than there were before? Should they shop with their kids? Are they worried about wearing masks? Any kind of uncertainty can create anxiety, and this will lose sales. We are lazy creatures at heart, especially after forced confinement. It will be easy to find excuses not to go to the high street again, so you need to nip them in the bud as early as possible.
When raising awareness of stores opening, video content is an excellent way to reassure customers of the changes and safety measures being made. Create a walk around of the store, demonstrating the new shopping experience, showcasing products, to make it clear you can welcome customers back and it is worth a visit. Use these across your customer touch points - social channels, newsletter, website - and with local online media outlets.
Video also works well to bring to life the behind-the-scenes efforts of staff getting stores ready, connecting with customers on a human level.
Remember that above all else, toys are fun. And we all need more fun in our lives right now. So, don’t become worthy, especially in your communications. There are heaps of ‘we’re here for you’ messages from across the business spectrum, and consumers don’t need any more. Families and kids need to be uplifted. Reflect the reality you know they are experiencing, but be positive, make them laugh and smile in the process.
This is especially important in store, where social distancing measures might make the environment feel more sterile than engaging. There is a real danger that stores can simply become a collection point for products bought online, and that would be very sad.
Video works well for product demonstrations if people cannot touch items. For example, it could form part of screened-off display areas so products can be compared side by side, and the quality seen more clearly.
Don’t change too much
How have you fared through the Covid storm? It is rubbish to say we are all in the same boat - we are in the same storm, but in totally different boats. But if you have fared OK, ask yourself why. Look at what is going well and keep going with that. Add more layers to what you are doing, to accommodate the stores opening again, but don’t stop the good stuff you got going through lockdown.
There’s an awful marketing jargon word that has been bandied about over the past few months: pivot. However, it does a good job of describing the level of change in comms that is needed right now. Not a complete step-change, or new positioning, but a minor adjustment to accommodate a shift.
If you have ecommerce, driving traffic to that will remain a crucial part of your comms strategy. Use the channels you have built up. Send out customer newsletters from the CEO explaining how you are accommodating the change, what it means for customers and their engagement with you. Use targeted promoted social media posts to those in the vicinity of retailers you need to support.
Use the media
The media is even more open to good news stories than before, but brands are still hesitant to take the opportunities open to them. Our research shows that more than half of journalists are struggling to get hold of spokespeople or marketing teams. As many as 56 per cent of journalists think companies have cut their activity and 53 per cent are receiving fewer pitches from brands and their agencies. In fact, 88 per cent of journalists actively want people to pitch feature ideas to them. So, what are you waiting for?
For more information about media relations in a post-Covid world, visit www.energypr.co.uk/expertise/media-relations-in-a-post-covid-world