3 ways brands will need re-approach their PR in the post-pandemic era

24 April 2020 | 5 min read | News
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

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Everything has changed this year, and that must include your PR strategy. Our managing director, Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, explains. 

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If you’d rather read than watch and listen, a transcript of the video is below.

To say that the Coronavirus is having a profound effect on all of us is perhaps the greatest understatement of the year so far. It is challenging brands in a way they have never been tested before, and the message being repeated over and over is of the imperativeness for brands to remain at play rather than go into cost containment mode and hide in the shadows until the current situation is over.

The ‘new normal’, as it has come to be known, will be very different to its ‘old’ predecessor. So, what next? How will today shape the way in which brands go about their business tomorrow from a PR perspective?

Here are what I believe to be the most pressing considerations that will dominate brand thinking as they begin to develop their post-pandemic promotional plans.

Consumer values have pivoted

Consumer values, priorities and motivations have changed immeasurably within a remarkably short period of time. From greater care being afforded to one’s personal health and spending quality time with family, to interacting with friends and other networks on a scale (and frequency) not done previously people are feeling and experiencing life on a different plain to what has gone before.

This is having a profound effect on consumer behavior. The motivations that influenced their purchasing decisions just a few short weeks ago have now been flipped as consumers look for brands to deliver against these values. Such revised expectations will continue into the post-pandemic era.

Brand values have also pivoted

Much has been talked about the need for brands to pivot both their offering and messaging during the current crisis. More important has been the call to invest in enhancing consumer relationships. In my view, this is a precursor for what will inevitably follow rather than it being a stop-gap approach.

It’s about rethinking and redefining what constitutes a ‘successful’ PR campaign. We can all obsess with measuring impact by a set of tangible metrics, but it will be the intangibles which will become a key focus for brands. How are they performing in terms of the real and relevant value they deliver? This may be harder to quantify, however, as Simon Sinek reminds us, we can’t measure how much our mother loves us, but we know she does.

Brands will want deeper, more personal interactions with consumers (and the latter will demand the same).

For a long time, optimizing content and media communications in a bid to drive organic traffic has been a focal point for brands. However, the vast expansion of the media landscape and the relationship consumers have with it has reduced the role of organic traffic to that of a bit-part player within the wider marketing mix. This is especially the case right now, with consumers putting brands on notice if they fail to act and respond appropriately in response to the current crisis.

We can all obsess with measuring impact by a set of tangible metrics, but it will be the intangibles which will become a key focus for brands.

To cut through the noise, brands will need to focus on contextualizing their outreach. This will mean the increased use of channels that fall outside of organic traffic to deliver content that veers away from simply pumping out sales messages. Rather, energies will now be channelled towards content that is relevantvaluable and targeted at the right people, in the right way at the right time using the likes of paid search or social media amplification, for example.

Consumers will go back to engaging with brands once more, just as social media influencers will return to, well, influencing again. But the way in which such actions are manifested in practice has changed and brands and influencers who have run out of things to say are unlikely to have their voices heard when all of this is over – not unless they reimagine themselves in a way that demonstrates their value.

Energies will now be channelled towards content that is relevantvaluable and targeted

Brands have never had a better opportunity to win the hearts and minds of the people who matter most to them. Understanding this is half the journey taken. The rest is putting it all together, rolling it out and remaining steadfastly committed to it. To return to how things have been until the start of the pandemic, would be a desperate shame. PR can re-organise, re-purpose and re-position itself as the primary lead of all the marketing disciplines.