By Alexandra Lee, Senior Content & PR Manager
Few of us could have realised just a few months ago that the first cases of the COVID-19 virus would lead us to this unprecedented situation; a global pandemic in the digital age. However, we now know we are in this for the long haul and it could be months before life returns to normal, if it ever does.
But – the world hasn’t entirely stopped turning and brands must continue to meet the needs of consumers. If we are to look at this pragmatically, we are being presented with a unique opportunity to reset our approach to PR and consider how we might use it for the better.
While there’s a plethora of negative experiences emerging, including panic buying and the loneliness that comes with social distancing, amid all this we’re seeing the bonding of humans around the world. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. It’s a human threat that has forced us all to put aside our differences and work together, as a community.
It’s made us use our phones to actually talk to people, but also encouraged us to use social media in the manner that it was originally intended – to connect people. There are hundreds of examples of Facebook groups and neighbourhood apps made up of citizens offering to walk dogs, collect groceries and generally look out for each other.
In truth, we’ve never been more reliant on technology to keep us connected as we have been in the last few weeks and months. Limiting where we can go physically has ramped up the need for personal and professional connectivity at a local and global level.
So, how can we leverage social media and redefine the traditional approach to content in order to position brands favourably within the COVID-19 landscape?
With brands worrying about the ability to produce high quality assets for the foreseeable future, we need to find alternate ways to execute content-led PR campaigns. That approach needs totap into current audience behaviour and sentiment to establish a brand’s role – and avoid piling into the conversation without value.
Much of this behaviour will, for the foreseeable future, be based around home and family life indoors. We will see an increase in home-based activities., There’s no doubt that brands providing home-based gyms /exercise classes, yoga mats, kids’ activities and homecrafts will all see a rise.
But for brands who do not have a product that directly addresses a consumer need, they’ll we need to shift the focus to alleviating consumer pain points. Take boredom as an example. Home life is going to be boring, repetitive and, likely, unproductive for a long time. How can a brand tap into these pain points and serve up content that will stimulate and entertain the audience, and potentially provide valuable solutions?
Increasingly we’re seeing children’s birthday entertainment companies shifting their primary service to offer digital entertainment (think workshops, dance classes and arts and crafts) via live stream, giving parents the respite they need for just 60 minutes a day as they juggle working from home with around-the-clock parenthood.
Brands must dig deep now to identify these values-led opportunities to build relevance and connection. Isolated audiences are primed for content and what you deliver now will, I daresay, be what you are remembered for much further down the line.
So, how do we actually execute content in local lockdown? Who’s going to create it? One avenue is to engage content creators as opposed to straight up influencers – those who have the means to create authentic content on your behalf. In such a sensitive time, perhaps connecting via the creators themselves – who must have an authentic and relevant reason to be talking to audiences about both the brand and the issue of COVID-19 – would be better received by cynical consumers.
Alternatively, let’s help brands to understand the benefits of livestream in this environment – don’t cancel your CEO’s Q&A or briefing, stream it. Or, better yet, task your brand experts or ambassadors to use their skills to teach the nation how to cook better / write creatively / manage teams effectively when you’re all working remotely. The options are endless and your audiences hungry for inspiration.
Ultimately, after this, we will have all learnt to be kinder, more generous and more connected with others. So, in all that you do, make sure you foster these attributes to show your commitment to human connection.