It could be argued that one of these fundamental shifts is in consumer attitudes.
For many people, on a personal level, the pandemic has instigated a period of taking stock and considering what really matters, so it stands to reason that their opinions about the businesses they interact with on a daily basis will be part of this process of reassessment.
For brands, this heralds a potentially daunting time ahead – not only are budgets under scrutiny and the pressure to prove ROI higher than ever, but companies are also having to rethink how they are presenting themselves to the wider world in line with the consumer demands of the post-COVID-19 era.
In the current climate, it appears to be the authenticity of a brand that is winning over audiences and this can include a number of factors, such as what a company is giving back to society, how it treats its customers and staff and whether it’s truly committed to eco practices and sustainability.
Recently, retail businesses such as Boohoo have found themselves caught up in the backlash over fast fashion and poor working conditions in the industry, with critics making accusations of ‘greenwashing’ regarding their sustainability claims.
Similarly, trendy beer company Brewdog has been through the mill over an open letter from ex-staff members claiming the company created a ‘rotten culture’ due to its focus on ‘growth at all costs’, despite previously being lauded for its ‘B Corp’ status.
There’s no doubt that brands are under greater scrutiny than ever before and those that have actually listened to and invested time and energy in their customers, staff and sustainable practices are the ones that are best weathering the current storms.
This focus on authenticity can be exemplified in media stories such as that of Costco – offering a job to one of its customers after he had been made redundant and following a tweet from his daughter explaining why he wanted to work there (he cited its long-standing reputation for treating staff and patrons well as a key reason for this).
Judging by recent PR hits and misses, it’s no longer enough just to make claims or have industry accreditations; it’s the genuine intentions, actions and outcomes that make brands stand out from the crowd and inspire customer loyalty.
To help companies understand this and tell the most meaningful stories, PR obviously has a crucial role to play.
This involves not only ensuring budgets work harder than ever, but also supporting brands in making long-term changes to develop truly authentic narratives that get to the heart of what really matters to people.
Alice Regester is co-founder and chief executive of 33Seconds