Necessity is the mother of invention. Truer words have never been spoken. If 2020 taught us anything, it was that one must be ready to innovate or they would be left behind. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world and the global economy to a huge slow down. With over 103M current global cases and counting, the world has experienced an unprecedented health and economic crisis.
March 12th 2020, the first COVID-19 case was reported in Ghana. And though this may look like just the other day, a lot of things changed and organizations not just in Ghana, were forced to reinvent and rethink their ways of doing business while others were forced to shut down. Almost a year from the first case, over 67 thousand cases have been reported.
While the media and communication sector has been presented with a different form of crisis with cancelled events, projects put on hold, and a different feel to collaborations and socialization amongst colleagues due to virtual work spaces, there have been unique brand partnerships and messaging that are emerging out of these tough times, and keeping the sector enthusiastic and hopeful with a sense of purpose that has driven the message; change is not always bad.
In this time of the pandemic, different organizations and communication agencies, including PR, Digital Media, Marketing etc. are trying to re-define the media landscape by working on campaign and brand activities to generate relevant, original, and responsible content especially during this time.
What communication tools then can organizations use to be relevant and present to their consumers especially during this time. Below are some not so new but very key ideas to focus on:
- Be Present on Digital
It cannot be overemphasized and given the current communication world we live in, brands need to have digital presence. They need to be found and seen on digital. They need to be thought leaders and make their presence felt as well.
Digital marketing lets brands communicate directly with their customers and audience who see their content. Brands are able to see what their consumers think through website comments, messages, reviews, and social media engagement posts. Creating these engaging avenues shows customers that you care about what they say and think, leading them to feel respected and part of the brand you are growing. It also allows brands to gather feedback and information on customers’ reactions and preferences that can be used in product development or enhancement.
Digital marketing makes it easy to comment on issues and controversies that relate to your product or your industry. In this way, you can establish yourself as an authority on such topics, leading people to trust you, come back for more information, and eventually make a purchase or refer your products and services to others.
Besides being present on digital, brands need to ensure that their organizations are digitally savvy to suit the current working environment. Are your employees able to operate fully in virtual work spaces, do they have shared work tools to access work documents from wherever they are, do they have available online learning resources to keep building on their skills and competencies?
Last year especially during the lockdown in Ghana, we saw how important digital presence and digital tools were to businesses. As people were home, a lot of time was spent on the internet either on webinars that had been organized by organizations, conferences and meetings took place online, people were shopping online, we saw how many restaurants quickly innovated to offer delivery services to their consumers as sitting in restaurants was not allowed.
From a social perspective we saw virtual concerts and events take place, weddings, funerals and other events were also held online as a way of connecting people because they could not be together physically. The digital world is doing exactly what it is meant to do, connecting people.
- Create Relevant Content
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, campaigns and projects on hold, forcing organizations and brands to work with what they have in order to remain relevant. Hello innovation!
Brands are now reaching out with more engaging and responsible ideas where necessary while still keeping in mind that their consumers are also faced with trying to stay safe and sane. We saw that even though marketing budgets had to be properly managed, a lot of branding campaigns and messages incorporated the health crisis.
Brands sold their products and services but still kept the relevance of the times very loud. Communication messages spoke about the impact or damage which had been caused by the pandemic, companies made their employees and customers more socially aware, and also told assuring messages in these tough times.
Having in mind the present health crisis, content driven communication has never been more vital. From thought leadership and opinion pieces to participation across relevant discussions, different brands, companies and media houses have been seen working together to create content that is impactful and can drive positive action.
- Participate in Corporate Social Responsibility
Participating in Corporate Social Responsibility shows that you’re a business that does not turn a blind eye to the wider social issues. When an organization shows that it is not only interested in profit but also in making the people and community it operates in better, it attracts customers who share in these same values and in the long run pays off. The essence of CSR is however not to benefit from giving back but instead to play your part in creating a better environment and world.
Keeping COVID-19 in mind, we saw that even though brands knew that their business would be affected by the economic crisis that had risen from the pandemic, they did not shy away from making their contributions in the form of finances or PPEs that helped especially frontline workers in dealing with the crisis at hand.
These acts matter to consumers when they see brands that care and are concerned about what is going on in society. It is an indirect way of reaching new consumers and drawing them to your brand as people always see what we do, especially the little things with the most impact. Having the right tools is a first step for any organization to stay ahead of competition and stay relevant to their target audience. However, there are further steps that organizations can use these tools to sustain their businesses:
Know your Target and which Tools work for them
Every brand, business, organization has a specific target audience that they intend to speak to or reach with their products and services. Knowing your target audience or customer can be the difference between your brand being effective or ineffective. Targeting the wrong audience can be dangerous and in the long run a waste of company resources.
Organizations need to spend time researching their audience and their respective changing needs so that they fully understand how different communication tools and materials can be segmented and properly utilized to suit the various target groups they may have.
This does not mean in any way copy or do exactly what your competition is doing. Knowing what is already in the market, what and who who you are up against is a great way to start putting your communication tools into use. Monitoring your competition gives one the opportunity to identify weaknesses and strengths in your competitors and the opportunities available in market, to help you understand how your brand may develop new or enhance existing products and services to meet current market needs.
Identify what makes YOU
A good brand is more than just a nicely designed logo and visual identity, it is also about the idea or story behind the brand. Organizations need to capitalize on their brands core values, key strengths and share them. What is the meaning or purpose behind the brand? Does the brand have a unique personality? What personality do you want to share with your target audience? Look at what makes the brand stand out and amplify it.
Tell YOUR story
In today’s communication world, brands have the opportunity to communicate outside of the traditional channels. Consumers are more interested in getting to know the why of brands and what makes them tick. Knowing your brand’s story and telling it through your visual identity is just as important as selling your product or service as this helps brands to directly connect and engage with their consumers giving them an emotional feel of who they are.
If we have learnt anything in the past few months, it is the importance of being agile as a brand in order to be set apart during difficult times and emerge on the other side. It is never too late to try and make some differences and see how they positively affect how you do business. Pick one communication tool and start there then make small steps towards making your brand an impactful one. Don’t forget to stay safe while you do so.
>>>The writer is Chief Director, Global Media Alliance. LinkedIn: Emma Wenani