Communications Next – Strategic Framework for the New Normal

With the second wave of the COVID-19, organisations are rethinking their marketing and communications strategies. Just when the narrative and the marketing budgets were finalised for the new financial year, we are challenged with uncertain times yet again. And as it is said, Thoughtful strategy sets the course, great communication steers it to success.

I’m sharing a framework to develop a thoughtful communications strategy to reach out to the key stakeholders.

  1. Communicate with Empathy: In times when most people are growing fear, anxiety and are burdened with work and healthcare pressures, it is important that brands have an empathetic narrative rather than just tom-tomming about their products and services. Keep a close tab on changing social behaviours before making any announcements internal or external. So if your brand was launching a campaign for the summer season, relook at the messaging, explore more UGC based initiatives so that consumers can resonate with the storyline. Do a pulse check of the campaigns with consumers by using new age technology platforms and focused group discussions as well.
  2. Brand Communications across Channels: A brand will have to relook at its messaging across its owned, paid, earned and shared media channels. For instance, consumer preferences are evolving with the focus on health, hygiene, environment friendly and brands who contribute to community building are more trusted. Relook at how your brand is sharing some of the initiatives even through the packaging, short videos that are shared on the company’s website and social media platforms. Tell the consumer how they are contributing towards the environment and the community, it will persuade them to choose your brand other the others
  3. Internal Communications becomes a priority: Employees are one of the most important stakeholders for all organisations and as they rightly say, Happy Employees = Happy Customers = Successful Company. Keep up the morale of your employees, make sure that you keep them engaged personally and as a team. The company’s MD should have more town hall meetings to discuss the roadmap forward, business strategy and product/solution innovations being planned and how can they contribute to help the organisation grow. It is the right time to sharpen the saw and invest more in L & D programs that can help in keeping the employees relevant and upskilled. Make sure to be compassionate and provide healthcare support to your employees and their families, have a mental health counsellor available at all times. 
  4. Active ORM to ensure digital crisis management: All sectors are going through disruption due to the second wave, curfew and lockdown in states is causing labour unrest in many sectors. In such times, many social activists and labourers latch on to social media to share their angst and anxiety. It becomes very critical for brands to have a real time Online Reputation Management system in place to ensure tracking of all comments/opinions and to ensure direct engagement with them.
  5. Create a Playbook for Crisis Management: Operations of businesses are likely to be impacted in the current scenario, as a communications consultant make sure to plan for different scenarios such as labour unrest, employee/senior management getting COVID-19, construction of projects coming to a halt, customer complaints regarding product/service. Be ready with a playbook to respond in such scenarios, have a checklist that can be shared with key stakeholders in the organisation to gather relevant information, next will be to create an appropriate but thoughtful response. Remember that it is important to share a timely response rather than ‘No Comments’ that could hamper the brand reputation in long-term.

As custodians of brands, it is important to keep amending and reworking our communication strategies based on the evolving socio-economic environments. Will be great to you could share your thoughts/opinion on drafting communications strategy in the new normal.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Richa Seth
Richa Seth, Group Head at AdfactorsS PR - Asia’s leading PR agency, in the Corporate 3 SBU. She has been instrumental in creating and executing award-winning integrated marketing communication campaigns for large, mid-size companies and start-ups in B2B & B2C space, across sectors such as technology, education, real estate, infrastructure, manufacturing & engineering, finance, etc. Richa has successfully counseled brands for corporate reputation, product PR as well as crisis management.

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