Last week we hosted an informal Zoom gathering to bring together the marketing folk in Skout’s diverse client base so we could connect, share experiences and learn from each other while we continue to run marketing and comms operations remotely.
Over the past couple of weeks at Skout we’ve also been thinking about important brand behaviours in crisis situations. We came up with the five following priorities and used these as discussion points through the call:
- Adapting your market approach
- Crisis-led innovation
- Living your values
- Filling the uncertainty gap
- Employees are king
For more on these, head to Claire L’s latest blog, ‘Why brand communications is even more important during a crisis’.
These themes resonated with members of the group and it was interesting to hear insights and initiatives from other organisations during this time, so we thought we’d share them with you too. Here’s what we found:
Throughout the first week or two of lockdown, we did find it incredibly hard to get hold of journalists to pitch stories. Understandably, the news agenda was mostly Covid-19 related, and there seemed little scope for anything else. However, over the last week or so we’ve found that journalists are less apprehensive to pick up other stories and it has been easier to get hold of them, albeit over email. Perhaps, like the rest of us, they’re now settling into their new working environments and have had a little more time to digest what the pandemic will mean for the future of their business and industry.
While the current crisis naturally opens doors for some businesses to offer useful commentary and advice, it’s crucial that we’re not ‘profiteering’. It was widely agreed among our group of marketers that any external comms produced at this time must be appropriate and genuinely helpful to its intended audience. One of our participants found that their website sessions had greatly increased over the past few weeks, while conversions had comparatively decreased. This shows that their audience is currently looking to consume more information, and they’ve responded by producing more educational and informative content.
According to Israeli PR technology company, Propel, the PR industry is ‘alive and kicking’ despite the current global pandemic. Their data reveals that the volume of pitches sent to journalists has increased, while engagement by journalists has remained the same.
Getting internal comms right is also now more important than ever. Several of our clients told us that they’re now being required to pick up internal comms – something that they’d not had to deal with before. Others are working closely alongside their dedicated internal comms teams to drive messages out.
Skout’s MD, Rob Skinner, said that these comms are crucial to keep staff informed of potential business changes and strategies as organisations pivot and adapt. Bringing staff on board with new processes and ways of working are key to business continuity.
Internal comms has increased in importance with remote working – supporting employees to keep motivation and morale up. Businesses are adopting new, creative ideas and initiatives to bring employees together. Whether that’s video call catch ups (every morning at 9.30am without fail for the Skout team!) or Netflix watching parties. One of our participants added that these video calls bring things to life and make closer bonds, especially when working with colleagues across the globe. Another highlighted the important role these calls play in checking in with members of the team from a wellbeing perspective, particularly for those that live alone, helping them to break up their day and not feel so isolated.
Another positive is how comfortable everyone has become with video calls. Another marketer, who usually prefers a more traditional approach and face-to-face meetings, said they’re now enjoying regular video calls and has found that they’ve made comms more effective.
Inevitably, Covid-19 has also thrown up a number of challenges for our marketers. We now have to react daily to market changes, and in some circumstances, this means a U turn on market approach, sales strategy and how we communicate. One member of the group mentioned that, as a result of sales challenges, they’ve had to completely discard their existing marketing plans and start again, while keeping pace with the fast-moving situation.
The volume of output now required was noted as another challenge, with daily calls to agree the proactive and reactive content that needs to be produced and circulated. One client mentioned that keeping their dedicated Coronavirus web page updated was a full-time job.
Opportunity for innovation
With the negatives, of course, thankfully come positives. We’ve seen many businesses innovating and introducing creative new initiatives in response to Covid-19. Many organisations are offering resources for free as a way to connect to a wider audience.
One of our clients admitted they’re busier than ever, putting together a package on productivity around remote working. As we’ve seen just how effective remote working can be (not to mention incredibly beneficial for the environment), it’s likely there’ll be more demand for remote working in future. In just two weeks, our client has managed to create a new product offering, along with a brand new proposition and staff training, where it could have previously taken months to it bring to market.
While the current crisis is far from ideal in every aspect of life, our client marketers’ ability to adapt, and be versatile, creative, and most importantly, resilient is clear.
In our next meeting, we’ll be discussing the vital role of pivoting – the ability to ‘turn a sixpence’; whether that’s in terms of marketing messages and campaigns or your role personally in assisting business change. Get in touch if you’d like to join us!