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The seven golden rules for brand communications during (and after) the pandemic

For the millions of companies operating in a post-pandemic reality, the term “open for business” has never sparked a greater sense of uncertainty. The seismic shifts in how people live, work and interact have led to permanent changes in how brands communicate and engage. We are operating in a new communications paradigm where old rules are continuously challenged.

Rebuilding means reprioritising. Pound signs are shifting to strategies that are most effective in creating value, helping brands own the conversation and deepen relationships to engage with stakeholders and consumers where they are – which isn’t where they were just days before the pandemic.

The power of public relations has naturally emerged at the top of the priority list. From crisis planning to CSR, ancillary practices once deemed “nice-to-have” investments have quickly become business imperatives.

How do companies follow a new PR playbook that continues to change almost daily? Here the seven foundations that need to be at the centre of every brand’s programming.

Policy has become PR
We’ve learned that internal and external corporate policies can and will make their way into the hands of media and other influencers. From sick leave to customer returns, how corporations treat and protect their employees and other stakeholders is open season, and brands will be judged by their transparency, fairness and consistency.

Internal messaging = external fodder
Internal and employee communications are no longer just a function of HR. Information coming from employers is seen as more credible than elsewhere, giving companies the ultimate platform to prove they have their people’s best interests in mind. In addition to frequent and transparent communications, companies need to have the means and the technology to remain connected and operating no matter what the obstacle.

People want executives to lead
People are putting their faith in the private sector more than anywhere else to find solutions. Executive leaders have a unique opportunity and responsibility to serve as a trusted voice for employees, customers and industry. With the rise of the “Social CEO”, thought leadership opportunities and expectations have completely changed, and well-executed executive eminence programmes are the key to building brand trust and loyalty.

Play in attack as well as defence
Today it is not enough to have a crisis plan; the plans, protocols and people involved must be battle tested and ready. Planning and preparedness must be supported by predictive analytics to anticipate, not just react to emerging issues. Far too many organisations have recently learned that the old rules do not apply – from what must be communicated to how to reach and resonate with key audiences.

Power in purpose
Even amid economic turmoil, good corporate citizens that take an “all-in” approach to purpose as part of their platform are rewarded. Consumers see through a “check-the-box” approach to cause-related “campaigns” and expect purpose to be authentic and ongoing.

Be creative on demand
Speed, adaptability and nimbleness are the new pre-requisites of any brand creative going forward. The companies that win are prepared to pivot marketing campaigns on a dime, many times over, to meet consumers where they are now and well into the future – emotionally, physically and virtually. There is a new opportunity for businesses to harness new channels and more frequent communication that will enable them to connect and create deeper emotional ties to the brand.

Measure more to matter more
Historic views of measurement are no longer relevant for gauging performance in this environment. Brands need insights that can keep pace in order to be truly prescriptive. Deep insights and analytics have never been more critical to being able to pivot around emerging trends and issues, understanding consumer and stakeholder motivations and keeping a pulse on performance of channels, tactics and outcomes.

Written by Rebecca Blinston-Jones, UK MD of agency MWWPR

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