Coronavirus: How to connect the disconnected

The phrases 'WFH' and 'self-Isolation' have never been more part of our daily vernacular.

Cheryl King is MD of Markettiers MENA (image via @CherylKing45 on Twitter)
Cheryl King is MD of Markettiers MENA (image via @CherylKing45 on Twitter)

Despite the doom and gloom, with cancellations, postponements and many closures, all is not lost. Whilst media are going into corona overdrive, brands and agencies are now having to think differently, and creatively to ensure they remain visible without going quiet.

In this new environment, the good news is that we are seeing brands being quick to adapt to change. Purely from an internal comms front, remote working has now become the norm, not the exception, so the usual means of communication have had to change in lieu of face-to-face interactions. So how do you connect the seemingly disconnected?

Getting online

Well, for one, we are seeing a huge rise in the demand for live streaming. And this can take on various forms. Whether it’s simply a daily Skype chat with the team working remotely, a Town Hall meeting or a more ambitious webcasting panel debate, and live event capture, the ability to broadcast to audiences is providing the opportunity to create a direct and transparent dialogue with the authenticity and trust that comes with live.

Technology is also increasing the viewer’s experience through increasing engagement and connections. When we live stream, our platform brings audiences together in a single viewing experience interface, with live, yet fully moderated Q&A options so that brands can speak directly to their staff through a single- or multi-camera setup.

The power of live during this time is also providing benefits from an external comms perspective.

Although physical events are being cancelled, audiences can still be reached digitally. This can take on many forms: for example, for a car launch, the reveal can still take place, perhaps aided by an experienced presenter who takes screened questions from an online audience to put to an automotive expert or CEO.

Announcements and discussions can also take place, again with live Q&As providing direct access for audiences to speak to media. For those who miss the live version, on-demand versions are available a few hours later, with all content being optimised for mobile. To engage and reach audiences, this live content is then embedded into a brand’s site or simulcast to social and internal channels, and through third-party media sites – with all of the major online news channels in the region being receptive to hosting live streams editorially.

Targeting campaigns

Ultimately, you go to where your audience is, working the content hard to note that audiences sit and consume content in different ways. The ability to promote live streams to niche audiences, as well through the likes of LinkedIn, where you can distil and reach core audience groups, means that there is the opportunity - if done correctly - to deliver an extremely targeted campaign with minimal audience wastage.

And whilst we should not underestimate the power of live, there is, of course, the rise of podcasts. They’re not live, and typically don’t use as much ‘fancy tech’, but their power to reach audiences as a mobile-first platform is absolute. And niche targeted audiences at that.

During a time when many are ‘self-isolating’, the ability of a podcast to provide escapism or to connect with us when we are perhaps feeling disconnected presents a powerful opportunity for brands.

Our research shows that in the UAE alone, there are 1.6 million regular podcast listeners, and with a solid podcasting strategy in place, the ability for brands to engage listeners and build a community through longer-form content provides an opportunity to reach an engaged audience who are invested in that subject matter.

Podcast listeners themselves are not ‘accidental listeners’; you don’t just stumble upon a podcast, you actively have to seek it out, based on your interest. And as you have a vested interest in the subject matter, as a brand with the right promotion and distribution strategy there is a lot that can be communicated in 43 minutes – the typical length of a podcast in the UAE.

So, while podcasts themselves are not ‘new’, they should be seen as a disruptor to the market, as they defy the trend for shorter, ‘snackable’ content – and during this time especially, they represent an effective way to reach audiences both internally and externally.

So, with all of the daily updates and our social and news feeds being dominated by coverage on the global pandemic, there are, as always opportunities to be had. And as brands continue to think creatively and innovatively during this time, looking at different forms of communication may just be the ticket to win.

Cheryl King is managing director of Markettiers MENA

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