Companies need to drop brand messaging and focus on how their business is reacting to the coronavirus or risk getting burned. That the message from communications experts, who warned it has never been more important to get the tone of communications right.
Speaking on PRWeek’s podcast, The PR Show, Blurred founder and chief executive Nik Govier said that in the early days of the pandemic, clients were “behaving as brands” and putting out stunts like McDonald’s separating their golden arches to illustrate social distancing.
While accepting McDonald’s was trying to be helpful, she said: “The point is that people were suffering, and to act like a brand to promote itself felt wrong. People were saying, ‘That’s all very well and good, but what is your action, what are you doing? What about paying your employees sick pay. We want to see proper business behaviour.’
“Now is the time of business, not brand. People are hurting, people are dying and are not interested in being marketed to or sold to. It is about what a business can contribute to the world right now, rather than what a brand can.”
Consumers are more interested in what brands do, than what they say. In Govier’s words, this means: “The days of spin are long, long, long gone. We all want to see how businesses are reacting rather than just how brands are behaving.”
It’s a view that was echoed by Frank co-founder and managing partner Andrew Bloch on The PR Show.
He said rather than brands “I didn’t know I had even signed up to” sweating mailing lists with COVID-19 messaging, they should be listening to their customers “closer than they’ve ever had to do before”.
“The brands that have done well have judged the mood of the nation correctly. We’ve seen brands move from panic to reassurance, to starting to adapt towards these new needs,” he said. “In recent days brands are beginning to plan for their own resilience and recovery.
“Pretty quickly, brands woke up to the fact that now is not the time to be beating your own chest. If ever there was a good time to be a good corporate citizen and contribute to the public good – now is the time.”
The PR Show explored how brands can get their tone right during the coronavirus.
Bloch and Govier analysed good examples of tone and comms, versus bad ones.
These examples included: BrewDog, LVMH, Disney+, Burger King, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, British Airways, KFC, Guinness, Paddy Power, Joe Wicks, Tim Martin, Mike Ashley, Pornhub and shoe repairs-to-locksmith services chain Timpsons.
The full podcast is available below:
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