It goes without saying that COVID-19 has drastically changed the landscape of every industry. Restaurants are providing higher volumes of food deliveries, educators are engaging with students behind a screen, gyms are providing online fitness programmes and the list goes on. Many businesses today are forced to change their working models to stay relevant, including the PR industry.
Quite often, PR is seen as a luxury or “non-essential” during a market slowdown. Many businesses are adopting the “wait and watch” approach while cutting back on unnecessary expenses – and unfortunately, the budget for PR is usually the first to be let go. It is known that the PR industry has always been challenged to consistently demonstrate a return on investment (ROI) as PR is deeply rooted in communications, and not every aspect of communications can be measured by numbers. How, for instance, does one effectively calculate the financial return on effective crisis management communications?
That said, adaptability is at the heart of PR, and that is also one of our core strengths here at The Outsiders Co.. We help our clients adapt to the needs and wants of their consumers during this pandemic. We understand that consumers are no longer seeking the biggest bang for their buck. Rather, they are seeking brands that are authentic and truthful to their mission, as well as providing genuine value to people.
Here are five things PR professionals need to rethink about how PR practice has changed since COVID-19:
#1 Learn what is dominating the news
To craft PR materials that align with the public’s needs and interests, it is crucial to monitor and analyse current headlines and determine if what is dominating the news fits the narrative of your brand. At the end of the day, the main goal of PR is a simple one – to ensure that your brand is part of the ongoing conversations.
E.g. As we are living in a period that is centred around COVID-19, it is your responsibility as a PR practitioner to stay in the loop of new developments, insight and stories regarding the virus. Once you establish an understanding of what is important to your audience, find ways to creatively fit your brand into the conversation.
#2 Research, research and research
A significant element in PR is the ability to track and assign meaning to what matters to consumers. Instead of making an educated guess or scrolling through endless opinion pieces online, why not go back to the facts and figures? After all, data does not lie. Utilise the right tools and channels that will give you clear and concise numbers in regards to what works best for your intended audience. This is instrumental in creating effective materials in a timely manner.
Refer to credible research organisations such as Nielsen or Ipsos for information on what consumers are paying attention to right now. TV viewing, for example, is increasing (notably throughout news segments) and it would be crucial for a business to appear as an expert in their industry or as key opinion leaders. Invite company experts or thought leaders to come forward and share their expertise.
It is also worth noting that consumers across the globe have increased their usage of social media to remain connected, educated and articulated in their beliefs during this time. A summary from Nielsen’s Social Content Ratings data from January to February 2020 illustrated that at its peak, the social conversation mentioning either “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” had 110,000 keywords.
#3 Learn what consumers want
According to a recent Nielsen report, online purchases are growing, but 60% of consumers worldwide still prefer purchasing premium products from physical stores in their respective countries. It is also discovered that consumers around the world claim that they are seeking premium products of superior quality (56%), performance (51%), design (43%), experience (42%), and brand (42%). Nearly two-fifths of global consumers (41%) are willing to pay more for organic and all-natural ingredients, and 38% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods and services.
As much as it is important to study the criteria or factors that consumers look for in a product, it is also crucial to learn the shifts in purchasing patterns amongst consumers. This information helps you determine which business strategy will be the most profitable. While a typical PR campaign usually focuses on what sets a business apart from its competitors, it is now more important than ever that you know what consumers are looking for in these extraordinary times, and direct your PR communication efforts towards those needs.
#4 Highlight positive emotionally-driven stories
A strong element to productive PR materials is the one that includes human interest. As we are currently living in a crisis that is fueled by uncertainty, people will appreciate feel-good stories that restore their hope or inspire a positive change in their life.
To build a strong relationship with your target audience and gain a favourable public image, it is imperative to highlight the initiatives or CSR campaigns that your company is launching or advocating for. This is a good way to show the public what you care about and build a community based on mutual values.
#5 Highlight successful practices
Think of the positive long-term effects that can come from your company’s initiatives and efforts. Highlight any practices your company may have employed to remain relevant in this current environment – it could be through pivoting your business model, improving communication channels, or adopting new technologies and tactics for operations. By doing so, it helps retain consumer confidence in your brand.
PR strategies will always change with time and circumstances as the modern media landscape is anything but small and consistent. There is a lot of shuffling and adjusting in the arena of digital communications but it is a learning curve filled with endless growth and opportunities.
With more than 15 years of experience in established agencies and in-house organisations, Ikram Zainy now heads the PR and Communications team at The Outsiders Co. (now Superminted) as our PR whiz.