The coronavirus pandemic has set millions of us into home lockdown and no one can accurately predict when it will end. For many people, especially those in marketing and communications, slow to non-existent business activity means that there is time to finally tackle that “I’ll get to it tomorrow” task list. These changes may allow for some organizations and their communications and marketing staff to tackle some neglected items on their to-do lists. Items may include reevaluating their reputation and brand, developing a communications plan for 2020 and beyond, or auditing their social media engagement.
When we finally emerge from our homes and get back to work, we all need to be ready to engage and get about the business of rebuilding the economy. Communications will be at the forefront of business recovery efforts, so there are some key tasks that we can get done now.
Communications Relevance Starts with a Plan
We can be certain that the post-COVID world will be different and companies need to be ready to communicate their place in the economy and why they’re still relevant. A strong communications plan will help an organization determine its brand image and shape how it is viewed in the new world. Often organizations that move forward without a plan end up unsure of their main messages, or with a reputation that is scattered or possibly not desirable at all.
In the post-COVID world, being clear about your brand and what it means to consumers and society are the table stakes for getting back to work.
Having a comms plan in place will ensure staff know how to communicate about the organization, as well as its goals and objectives, so everyone from the top down is on the same page when speaking to stakeholders, clients or customers, and even the media.
Evaluate Your Brand – Be Google, Not AOL
Ever believe that you are viewed one way, only to find out that others see you differently? The same thing can happen to organizations – often they feel the public or customers view them one way, only to find out their reputation is not what they thought. Then the questions need to be asked: “How did our reputation end up this way” and “How to do we get our brand to where we want it to be?”
If you need convincing, just remember that Sears thought they owned general retail for generations only to find that more relevant companies like Wal-Mart, and later, Amazon were meeting modern consumer needs. Or how about AOL which was positioned to become Google a decade before Sergery Brin and Larry Page even met at Stanford University? AOL thought being Internet-relevant meant creating tons of content on a proprietary platform and then selling dial up service to access it. The Internet-tsunami they sought to surf ended up swamping them and regulating the company to obscurity.
Companies need to understand that relevance in the post-COVID world has yet to be defined. They need to actively work at thinking, planning and communicating so that they end up like Google and not AOL.
Your Website is Your Future
For smaller businesses, quarantine time is the perfect opportunity to assess your web presence. Technology changes incredibly quickly, including technology behind websites. What worked 5, 3 or even last year may not be technology to help you thrive in the future. Here at Xenophon Strategies, we are using quarantine time to completely reevaluate our website and are embracing a robust program of creating relevant content (this blog, for example) and optimizing for the future after COVID. We are redoing our entire site in schema markup, which is using structured data, the search engine language, to move what we do and say into a brighter public light with a wider audience.
Regularly reviewing your website – its technology, layout, graphics, visuals, and content – is important remaining relevant and thriving in a society with changed consumer and communications habits.
Staying Up on Evolving Social Media
Social media platforms are continuously evolving – we all know Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but relative newcomer TikTok is highly popular and millions are connecting and sharing videos. It’s important to make sure your organization has a strong presence on social media. And by strong presence it doesn’t mean getting on all platforms because not every platform makes sense for every organization. It does mean understanding social media today and to be well informed about how the medium is growing and evolving.
Using quarantine time to get current on the latest changes in social media and budding platforms can help organizations determine what services are best suited for their needs, and how often they should be post and engaging.
Upping Your Crisis Communications Game – Get Going
Xenophon Strategies is a specialized PR firm and crisis communications and management has been about 40% of our business for the past 20 years. In short, we know crisis — and planning is the reason some companies are swamped by events and some thrive with an enhanced reputation.
Quarantine time is perfect to get into your organization’s crisis communications and response plan. An audit of your planning is the perfect place to start. If you need a starting point for either a crisis communications audit or a new plan – a good place to start is our article on the Key Fundamentals of Crisis Communications.
It’s time to get to work — recruit some colleagues, draft a to-do list and get going. Don’t come out of quarantine-time with just some enhanced jigsaw puzzle skills and a check list of completed Netflix series.
Getting Back to Work is an ongoing series on emerging from the COVID pandemic. All health and science columns are produced by Xenophon Strategies in consultation with Dr. David Hamer, a professor at the Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine with more than 30 years of experience in epidemiological diseases. Dr. Hamer leads Xenophon’s COVID Response Team and we are advising companies on science-based communications and business recovery issues.