The new normal for marketing: how to communicate in a crisis

Head of Comms & PR Services, Jamie Wood, talks to our experts at Sticky about the marketing mix and how it’s adapting to the Covid era.

Communicating with the world has never been easier, but during a global pandemic, it can seem like the safest option is to keep your thoughts to yourself.

But as we slowly start to emerge from lockdown, the world of marketing isn’t on mute – and brands who stay silent risk getting left behind.

The message to consumers may be a little different – a shift of the dial from brand showcase to business purpose. But with some creativity and ingenuity, there are still plenty of channels to choose from.

Creative & design – Rhian Harries, Creative Director

In a survey for PRWeek, industry leaders from multiple sectors rated digital content production as their highest area of priority for investment this year

And the one thing we’ve still all got time for at the moment is watching content.

Hollywood may be on hold but, that doesn’t stop you creating some fantastic video.

It’s time to think more TikTok, less Tinseltown – user generated content is leading the way for a lot of brands. The rough and ready approach is working well.

Like Tesco, for example, taking its existing Food Love Stories campaign, and giving it a heartfelt socially distanced touch.

Or KFC, which celebrated re-starting deliveries by sharing people’s attempts to recreate the secret recipe at home.

But lo-fi isn’t the only way to go: think of animation, repurposing your existing content, or if you’re Skoda, give three directors some toy cars and see what they can come up with at home.

Creativity in isolation is challenging but acknowledging your audience is in a state of flux is key.

For me, empathy and humour is the winning combination, and brands like KFC with their use of UGC, and Skoda with their free-reign brief to directors, have created moments of pure genius.

Animation, UGC, audio and small-scale shoots still give us plenty of toys to play with.

So you may need to plan a little more and stay a little further apart but if you’ve got a message, there’s definitely a way of getting it out in an engaging and creative way.

Strategy / Comms + PR – Jamie Wood, Head of Comms & PR Services

We’ve been talking about authenticity and purpose for years without anyone really having to mean it. But now brands are being judged on how they’re reacting to the crisis, how they’re changing their operations and what they’re doing for customers. Consumers want to know more, they want to know your story. So it’s time to sit down, work out what it is that you do – and talk about it honestly.

Social distancing doesn’t stop good strategy – you don’t need to be in the same room to get advice on the right approach, or when to align your messaging with a story in the media.

And while not every brand will have a way of engaging as directly as BrewDog on the Dominic Cummings story, the opportunities are there.

Copy, UX, tone of voice – Jackie Kingsley, Head of Editorial, Sticky Content.

Copy needs to work even harder to cut through the noise now, so the time is right for tightening up product pages, launching eye-catching e-books and creating blogs that really resonate.

Just like you might’ve been clearing out your cupboards at home, you can start doing a Marie Kondo on your content. How much of it is still bringing you (or your customers) joy? An audit will show you what you’ve got, what you need to keep, what needs a makeover and what’s past its sell-by date.

Got a website redesign on the cards?  There’s no time like the present to push the button on it, and an audit is the first step before zhooshing-up your content, filling in the gaps and doing the big migration. You’ve got time to give attention to detail, so focus too on your UX copy and get those CTAs working harder. 

Creating messaging around coronavirus has put tone of voice in the spotlight. So why not build on what you’ve learned and take a good look at your tone? A successful tone of voice project involves getting buy-in, so it’s a great way of doing some socially distanced team building too. Our TOV projects start with a survey to find out what people really think of their organisation’s content…and the results are often very revealing. Lockdown food for thought.

Training – Dan Brotzel, Content Director

We’ve always run quite a few training workshops and courses on a range of marketing topics such as digital copywriting and content marketing. These have usually been lively in-person events, with animated groups discussing real examples, so we wondered if it would be possible to transfer this sort of activity to a more virtual style. 

We’ve found, however, that training and workshops are still perfectly doable with a few modifications. We run shorter sessions, often with a talk element followed by a Q&A session. In addition, while turn-taking becomes more important, we can use chat functionality to fold in questions and comments as we go along. But most of all, we like to spend more time ahead of the session getting attendees really involved in shaping the session material by canvassing their thoughts and questions in conversations and surveys. That way, the material feels less one-way because we are presenting back to the group content that has been informed by their individual inputs.

If you’d like to talk to us about a business challenge or campaign, please get in touch.

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