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Marketing communications in the ‘new normal’

By Stephanie King, Associate Director at BlueSky PR

As 2020 kicked off and marketing strategies were in full swing for the year ahead, no one could have predicted that just a few weeks later our lives would be turned upside down when Covid-19 arrived, lockdown was imposed and the life we knew changed overnight. And in the weeks and months since, there have been huge changes in marketing communications. Not only were many marketers unable to work due to furlough or their business being closed altogether, which meant some activity ceased, but the messaging and ways in which companies communicated with stakeholders had to change exponentially.

Today, as we approach the end of 2020, and planning for 2021 is well underway, there has been a huge shift in marcomms strategies and this article looks at the key areas marketers need to consider in the new normal.

Rethinking your messaging on an ongoing basis: long term plans are a thing of the past

Whatever content you may have had planned for the remainder of the year, and beyond, needs to be refreshed – there’s no point trying to shoehorn existing plans that bear no relation to the current situation your stakeholders find themselves in.

After all, the messaging used during the national lockdown will likely be completely different to what is required now. And while we are by no means out of the woods yet – with regional lockdowns in full force and the very real threat of more restrictions– today’s messaging needs to be forward facing as your stakeholders are most definitely looking to the future, and how they can adapt, evolve – and in some cases survive – in the new normal.

And that’s why your messaging needs to change and reflect the challenges your stakeholders face in the immediate future. Consequently, it’s important that you spend some time now re-evaluating what your message needs to be in this new environment.  It’s also worth noting that in the current landscape of uncertainty, with changes happening very frequently, regularly reviewing your messaging is absolutely crucial. While quarterly or half yearly marcomms plans were standard practice pre Covid-19, in the immediate future at least, this just isn’t possible.

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Lessons learnt

Stephanie King
Stephanie King

When you’re building your strategy for the immediate future there are a number of lessons that we can all take from lockdown as to what worked with our communications activity. How brands communicated during lockdown completely changed. And the use of online tools and video content grew extensively. And while using video as a channel to communicate has long been valuable, lockdown really pushed the value of video right up the agenda for everybody. So look at what worked for you, what forms of content really got engagement during the lockdown and use that information to guide your future plans for any PR, marketing or content.

In the same vein, assess what didn’t go so well from a maromms point of view over the last few months and factor this into future activity.

The value of thought leadership content

With individuals and businesses spending far more time seeking out information online than ever before, thought leadership content – content that positions your brand as not only an expert in its field, but also sets you apart from your competitors – is key. And that doesn’t mean pushing out a sales message, but instead sharing added value content. Sharing information that shows your knowledge and your expertise will help position your brand as a trusted partner and one that its invested in its stakeholders at a time where uncertainty and trust in companies and their reputation can very easily eroded.

Demonstrating ROI

In tough times it’s an unfortunate reality that marketing budgets are often reduced or heavily analysed.  And in the current climate it’s perhaps more important than ever that marcomms strategies are not only delivering the all-important return on investment, but that the results are being fed into those within your business that are responsible for the budget.  Consequently it’s important that you are measuring each campaign you run and feeding in the business results regularly. Not only will this allow you to defend your budget, but it will also offer ample opportunities to tweak your future activity depending on the results of previous ones.

While there’s no denying that we are living in challenging times and with the pandemic showing no signs of abating, the future looks uncertain. However, as we approach a New Year it’s vital that marcomms strategies reflect the new normal and ensure that your brand has every chance of weathering the storm.

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