For many B2B (and B2C) organisations operating during these turbulent times the focus of the management team goes straight to the bottom line. What costs can be cut? How deeply can we go? And how will that bolster the cash flow as we ride out the Covid-19 storm? But history tells us that investing in brand communications can be critical during a crisis. For those brands that can build trust will see their loyalty rewarded.
Communication efforts are often initially highly visible during a crisis but the role it plays is more than just simply writing to customers, partners and stakeholders to ask if they’re ok. Yes, it’s important to deliver clear concise messages that tell them how you’re planning and dealing with the impact of Covid-19, but what’s more important right now, more than ever, is how you use brand communications to evolve the company or product to really deliver your values and map against sentiment. What you say publicly helps to keep a focus on long-term goals and ensure that they’re not lost amid short-term reactions to the pandemic.
Five things that you need to consider:
- Change your market approach: Now is the time to consider the broader market environment in which you operate. What can you do to support your market and ensure it’s still here in 12 months’ time? Can you turn delivery channels or cycles on its head? Could you give the product away for free to keep customers operating but see revenue generated elsewhere? Think about unbundling products and pricing to be as transparent as possible, or build a new distribution channel by bringing partners from different areas together. By focusing on supporting a specific market or customer/partner base you can build much needed trust and collaboration. . Get this right and then put your comms on it: tell the world that you’re still here, still operating but do through the role that you’re playing in keeping the market turning while it rides out the pandemic storm. It delivers a feeling of longevity and stability in these crazy times.
- Innovate: Many products were born out of a response to a crisis. Some of the UK’s biggest designers and manufacturers are already solving problems linked to Covid-19 – from Rolls Royce, Formula One and Dyson’s ventilators to a 3D printing company that have created a valve that fits a snorkel mask to turn it into PPE – all are perfect example of innovation solving problems. Get a cross function team together and get them to think about how you can adapt or innovate – place no limits on ideas. Post-virus this will support storytelling and brand comms.
- Live your values: all companies have them; they were brainstormed, picked apart and then lived and breathed throughout the organisation. But values come into their own during periods of uncertainty. Living them, and I mean actually living them, will help deliver value to the organisation. Get staff to consider them within this current environment – and come up with how you can deliver them in this uncertain market.
- Fill the uncertainty gap: buyers are looking for certainty in uncertain times. In B2C we’re seeing this manifest itself where consumers are looking for big brands to fill gaps alongside Governments– support communities, deliver medical support to the NHS, support the vulnerable; in B2B buyers need to know exactly what they can expect from you. Be clear, can you offer preferential payment terms or delivery to different locations or virtual support? Make sure that everyone in your organisation knows what you’re able to deliver and can communicate it consistently whoever contacts the business.
- Employees are king (and queen): Keeping employees safe and supported is key to riding out this crisis. For most companies it was the first communications effort they grappled with and it’s important not just from determining normal working practices, or order fulfilment challenges but to provide reassurance and prevent speculation. Internal comms at every stage of this crisis is key – these are the people on the front line between you, your product and the market. Make sure you get this right.
As the panic starts to rescind (and it will) and we adjust to a new normal in the way we work, communicate and interact with stakeholders, now is the perfect time to review our brand communications strategy and ensure that it meets current market needs. Being agile and thinking creatively can help brands to survive the crisis, and more importantly begin to grow and thrive once again.