The coronavirus pandemic continues to change the way we shop, work, socialize, travel, and much more. In a fast-moving global crisis such as the current coronavirus outbreak, brands have an important role to play. Staying true to their ambition creates a perception of integrity. Reputations can be made by activating brand purpose during the crisis.
Amid panic and business shutdowns, we chatted with Chinenze Amanfo, Lead, Public Relations, 9mobile, on how brands should communicate their messages effectively.
Brandessence: How should brands handle Communications during Coronavirus Crisis?
Chineze Amanfo: As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, brands struggle to determine the best way to handle communication with their stakeholders without seeming insensitive and opportunistic.
Brands who plan to communicate during this crisis period should focus on providing useful information to educate their customers and the general public. Brands must avoid self-promotion and explore ways of using their existing platforms to communicate with their audiences. Existing communication can also be modified to reflect the current realities of the Corona Virus, where possible.
Brands who provide essential products and services must communicate and reassure the public about product and service availability. This sort of approach keeps customers updated and projects such brands as adding value and support during the crisis period.
Certain brands can however get away with silence if they do not have a supportive message to communicate. This approach is not harmful because not every brand can give charity or support the Federal, State of Local government in the fight against the Corona Virus.
Some brands, on the other hand, decide to continue pushing out their regular communication without acknowledging the ongoing crisis.
Every brand that desires to communicate or respond during this crisis must use simple and clear language, provide timely information to avoid misinformation/fake news/conspiracy theories, show care and empathy to the public, and maintain an engaging two-way communication channel.
Any brand irrespective of its size must have a crisis communication plan to function effectively. Some organizations justify their lack of a crisis communication plan to their size or even the service they provide. However, the fact is that there is no sugarcoating the advice that any brand that does not plan is preparing to fail. Most organizations do not have a crisis communication plan, or what they thought was a crisis communication plan turned out to be insufficient rather than something addressing a major crisis such as the long battle that the fight against COVID-19 has turned out to be.
Whatever side of the divide an organization finds itself, it is never too late to draw up a crisis communication plan to help cushion the impact of the pandemic on its business, protect its employees, and ensure it can deliver whatever its product or service may be.
Brandessence: What can brands do to avoid the spread of misinformation and fake news during this crisis?
Chineze Amanfo: Brands must be as informative as possible because the media, different stakeholders, and the public will create their information if adequate information is not given to them by the organization during a crisis. Rumors can cause significantly more damage to the organization than the truth. The information must also be timely using the channels which address different stakeholder groups. Timely information communicated through the right channels gives less room for misinformation and fake news.
Brandessence: How should brands communicate with their consumers or customers during this crisis?
Chineze Amanfo: Brands must first identify the best and effective channels to reach their different audiences (internal or external). Suitable channel identification should be followed by relevant vital messages to address each audience. In communicating with customers, brands must be positive, be honest, be transparent, show empathy, and maintain an open and engaging communication channel.
Brandessence: What is the impact of the coronavirus on business and economy?
Chineze Amanfo: With the outbreak of COVID-19, our world has dramatically changed within a short space of time. People are worried, mentally burdened, and adjusting to probably the most significant lifestyle change of a generation of people since World War 2. The fundamentals of society have dramatically changed, and this will have much effect on our respective businesses forever. Several companies have gone from revenue of 100 to zero, and some are not able to sustain their high overhead costs and commitments. The global economy has been adversely affected.
Companies must modify their business models and generate new insights to increase competitiveness and guarantee the survival of their businesses.
Other expected impacts of the Coronavirus on businesses and the economy include changes in consumer behavior because social distancing will become a norm until a vaccine is discovered for the virus. In the technology space, work from home might become more pronounced, and businesses must identify what this means for their businesses. Virtual reality will also become more prominent in operations for industries like Hospitality, Tourism, Real Estate, among others, as they aim to capture value in a ‘Covid World’.
In conclusion, there is no handbook to thriving and leading in this new world, but brands must identify patterns that affect their businesses to achieve growth amid uncertainty.