Communicating empathetically in the new normal

Guest Column: Tribhuwan Joshi, Lead, Brand Communication, PR & CSR Fujifilm India, writes how and where brands should direct their PR & marketing efforts during the COVID crisis

e4m by Tribhuwan Joshi
Updated: May 29, 2020 11:59 AM
Fujifilm Tribhuwan Joshi

The pandemic has changed the way we live, work, and do business. The way you conduct your activity both externally and internally as a company during this time is extremely important for your reputation and your work ethic. We’re living in a global public health crisis and all you ever did before should be handled differently now, including PR and marketing energies. Considering brands are made up of social beings, we must act responsibly and empathetically. As India grapples with a new way of life and the crisis of COVID-19 peaks, it has caused most industries to impose strict isolation and social distancing on people which none of us has ever experienced before. Witnessing an unprecedented and difficult time of our lives, it has put all businesses to pause, re-think, reboot, and revive in order to create a more engaging experience. So how and where should you direct your PR and marketing efforts during this crisis?

  1. Internet is of paramount importance than ever before  

Use social media and online medium - People are naturally glued to their computers and smartphones more than ever. Not only that, but they’re feeling alone, uncertain, and scared. So it’s important to have a continuous dialogue with your stakeholders through social media and other online channels and help them keep a positive mindset while also educating them on critical issues. 

 Also, considering the current scenario with everyone being locked indoors, a revised communication plan should be put into place for engaging both our customers and consumers in the form of virtual live meetings, webinars, and online photography workshops and contests.   

  1. Bend - Your announcements should be in sync with the changing social behaviours 

Before making any announcements, internal or external, ask yourself if it will resonate well with people during this pandemic or not. Put all your future announcements, conceptualized before COVID 19, under scrutiny to check how they can be adapted or bent according to the current scenario and in tune with the new issues and new needs created by the virus. 

Presently, there is dismay and fear of uncertainty all around, people are more receptive to brands encompassing an emotional appeal and concern in all that they do or say. Every single announcement or statements you convey as a brand across channels should be full of empathy and care, and based on a thoughtful approach to avoid hurting the prevailing sentiments.

  1. EMPHASIS – Thought leadership is the answer

It’s definitely not the best time for conventional PR and marketing, or for new product launches. The best and most effective way of communication is by emphasis on building thought leadership, both internally and externally. This can happen either through blogs or an opinion piece on news website and help the brand to create confidence amongst both internal and external stakeholders. 

An insightful opinion from the brand’s senior management can help guide customers and employees on how we can overcome this difficult period together. 

  1. Communication – A double-edged sword to be used with utmost care 

Be very careful with what you communicate, think before letting the word out, and make sure to choose the right words or language whenever you communicate - externally or internally. You must bear in mind all of the above, irrespective of the communication channels you use, whether it's LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, newsletter, Twitter, press release, article, or a blog. The greatest concern people have on their minds right now is their health and the bleak future that they can see right now. Thus, your communication should try and uplift the perspective.

 All said and done, brands need to be receptive of the current 'emotions', acknowledge the same, and fight it out together as a country.

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