A recent resurgence in outings and group activities has demonstrated the nation’s delight over eased social distancing restrictions across Australia. As the narrative in the media and public discourse begins to shift towards recovery, there is also an understanding that we will arrive at a “new normal” rather than returning “back to normal”.
While there will still be difficulties, whether it’s having to avoid hugging loved ones or facing economic uncertainty, there are positive elements of our new routines and business models that will likely be adopted.
Has your business implemented a digital transformation to allow remote working? Are you checking traditional news outlets more often than you were before? Or, have you become a sourdough extraordinaire?
The new normal will have implications for brands and their communications.
For example, the 80% increase in online shopping may not continue at this unprecedented level, but could be a habit many people continue. This will undoubtedly influence the business models of retailers into the future. It will likely be the same for flexible working arrangements, as recent months have shown it’s possible to be productive while away from the office. Twitter has already announced its employees can choose to work from home permanently, even after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some of the communications considerations for brands moving into the new normal.
During the COVID-19 crisis, there has been the need for governments, organisations and businesses to communicate quickly and frequently. Coupled with the rise in remote working, content has been less curated and more authentic. TV news and programs are similarly interviewing guests from their homes, complete with furniture or passing pets in the background.
While we likely won’t see repeats of the bizarre case of Filipino TV reporter continuing a news broadcast as their two cats fought behind them, we can expect to see less curation and consequently a greater volume of content particularly in video form.
One of our clients’ Chief Executive Officer has recorded regular video updates to employees from their traditional Italian-style kitchen while working from home. Something that would’ve been unheard of six months ago, it has provided a sense of relatability and humanity, as the CEO has shared memories of cooking with her parents in that very kitchen and discussed the challenges she faces working from home with children around.
Trust in media
The community has increasingly turned to news outlets for their information on COVID-19,
with the top 10 news websites in Australia up in audience traffic by 54% in March. Traditional media has also seen a spike; sales of News Corp newspapers were up 48% in supermarkets and 78% of Australians are watching TV in lockdown.
The questions for businesses are: will this media consumption continue post coronavirus? And if so, what is your media relations strategy?
To have a voice in the media, your brand needs to be relevant to the conversation – and the news cycle is now increasingly narrating on what the future holds. While coronavirus stories dominated the media over the past few months, even pushing climate change almost completely off the agenda, we are starting to see more and more “business as usual” reporting.
Deliver on promises
Even as many businesses are continuing to struggle financially, and some still making redundancies, Australians are expecting to hear about their plans for a new normal. This is especially pertinent for cafes, restaurants and pubs at the moment.
Corporate messaging can no longer be: “we are in this together during this difficult time”. The message has shifted to: “we are doing X, Y and Z for when times get better”.
It is now the time to deliver on all the promises that brands made in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, from updating stakeholders on new information, to looking after employees and coming back united or stronger.
A stock-standard corporate line for many was “your health and safety are of the utmost importance” – brands need to be conscious their recovery plans are not in contradiction of this sentiment. Qantas recently received union backlash over its decision not to enforce social distancing or mandatory wearing of masks when flights return, a move also criticised by health experts.
It is currently a pivotal time for corporate communications to reflect the sentiment of both the Australian community and news cycle. The authenticity of the message, as well as the ability to back your words with actions, will be critical in how successfully the communications play out.
The Icon Reputation team are experts in strategic communications, messaging and stakeholder relations to assist with your COVID-19 recovery.