Covid mindset: How the global pandemic will change communications

In a few short months this pandemic has changed our perceptions of the world in a way that other historical events have taken months and years to accomplish.

Looking ahead, the challenge for businesses will be understanding how to adapt, actively listen and then respond with empathy. For many people, the reputational standing of a company once the crisis passes will be the sum of the hard choices they make now. Leaders who ground those choices in intelligence and effectively communicate them authentically will emerge with more loyal employees and customers, stronger reputations and a greater ability to compete and grow.

But it’s not only about making prudent and at times difficult business decisions, it is also about communicating those decisions clearly and consistently through the crisis on the road to the new normal.

The discussion of what that normal will look like has dominated the media and has been a central part of a new study “Covid-19 Mindset: How the global pandemic is shaping UK consumer attitudes and behaviour” conducted by TRUE Global Intelligence, the in-house research practice of FleishmanHillard.

It is notable that our findings reveal UK consumers view the way organisations are treating their employees as a barometer of who they are today and how they will act in the future – an attitude that has major implications for future purchasing decisions, being an attractive place to work and much more. In turn it will have signification implications for the way in which communications and PR professionals will need to learn, adapt and evolve at pace to respond to the changing ways consumers seek to engage with and hear from the organisations or brands they have a vested interest in.

Key findings from FleishmanHillard’s study:

  • Three quarters of people (76%) say the pandemic has changed how they view the world
  • Over half people say the crisis will change their future purchasing behaviour and 42% of people say they will base future purchasing decisions on companies that took care of employees during the crisis
  • Nearly half of people (46%) don't want to hear about the crisis from a company they do business with unless it's about something they are doing to help them and others through this crisis
  • About two-thirds (65%) of UK consumers report the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has changed their view on the products and services they once thought were important.

Given that most people surveyed felt that a return to normal life was at least 22 weeks away, companies should be considering how they want their actions to be viewed when we do have the benefit of hindsight.

The majority want to see companies uphold real values, show their purpose and invest in a better future and perhaps a more flexible and inclusive way of working. However, our study has revealed just 22% of people believe major corporations are doing well in their role in responding to the crisis.

Many of those we interviewed felt that a company’s treatment of its employees reflected on the nature of it as an organisation and that would impact on their own purchasing decisions. Considering this, companies that put their employees first and act with compassion and humanity will be those that will be rewarded with sustained loyalty – internally and externally.

% rating institution’s performance “excellent” or “great”

UK

National government

50%

Pharmaceutical companies

45%

Retailers

43%

Local schools

41%

Local businesses

38%

State/Provincial government

34%

Local/city government

31%

National media

28%

Employers

28%

Local news media

25%

Major corporations

22%

Despite the fragile economy and uncertain employment market right now, in the future companies could potentially face difficulties in staff attraction and retention because of their choices and communication failures now. Our research has found one in five (18%) workers will look at how a company behaved during the crisis to consider whether to work there in the future, just under one in ten (8%) say they will look for another job in a company that supports it employees and six per cent say will no longer be loyal to their company from now on.

This is a time that will lead to complete transformation for many companies and organisations as they are forced to adapt to survive. Taking stock of the situation, understanding the change audiences will expect and using this time to create a plan to get to the other side will strengthen the companies that plan for the future.

Those leaders who recognise the need to communicate their decisions – to explain and even defend them – will emerge on the other side with more loyal employees and customers, and a stronger reputation.

Written by Stephanie Bailey, managing director corporate reputation at PR firm FleishmanHillard Fishburn


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