2nd August 2020
Image credit: A Sharma
As humans we have an inherent need for information - something that has been accentuated by the events of recent months. We’re all seeking clarity and that means it’s more important than ever to communicate effectively and often. The brands that get this right will reap significant benefits in the form of enhanced brand reputation, better employee engagement, improved customer experience, and ultimately, more sales.
So what key things should companies be doing to drive positive positioning in the post-COVID era and beyond? Here’s five things to include in your strategic comms planning:
1. Honesty, transparency and clarity
Ok so that’s three things, but it’s important to put each of these at the centre of your communications and avoid sugar coated messaging. In times of uncertainty, people want honesty, transparency and clarity.
Very few businesses will emerge from this pandemic completely unscathed so don’t be afraid to update stakeholders on how the pandemic has affected your business. If you have had to (or will need to) make redundancies, communicate that sensitively and make it clear that the welfare of your employees (including those who have been laid off) remains a priority. AirBnB’s CEO, Brian Chesky, did this really well in a recent statement, which despite addressing the difficult topic of redundancy, was still well-received because of its honesty and empathy for those affected.
The key takeaway here is that delivering bad news doesn’t have to negatively impact your brand reputation if it’s done thoughtfully and with the best of intentions. Get this right and you’ll also help your company to steer its own narrative and get ahead of any customer concerns.
2. An ongoing offer of help
This should extend to your entire stakeholder network if possible, but will likely focus primarily on your people and your customers. Communicating with these groups in a meaningful way and regularly asking them if there is anything that your company can do to better support them will have a direct impact on how well your business performs going forwards. This will require a collaborative, company-wide effort to ensure that both internal and external communications are aligned, consistent and well positioned.
When it comes to supporting customers, we’ve already seen some fantastic examples of HR tech vendors going the extra mile to provide ‘Help for HR’ at a time of heightened stress and complexity. By ensuring that your customer communications focus on solving their problems, rather than pushing your products and services, you’ll ensure that your company’s expertise is positioned front and centre in customers’ minds as they begin their recovery. Chances are this will also foster improved loyalty and retention - a huge win for your business.
3. Recognition (and lots of it)
As the saying goes, ‘a little thank you goes a long way’.
It’s safe to say that we all appreciate recognition. Thanking and championing your employees and customers is a must at any time, but it’s especially important in the current climate. There are lots of ways to do this - a simple thank you (either in-person or virtually), a reward to show your appreciation, or even a public show of gratitude on social media. Of course, determining which of these is most fitting will depend on the specific company, employee and/or customer, but the message is the same: ‘We appreciate you and in return, we will endeavour to provide you with the very best experience and ongoing support.’
4. Future plans
Coronavirus is going to have a lasting impact on how businesses operate. That said, you’ll need to frequently communicate the ways in which you’re adapting your products and services to serve the new and evolving challenges that customers now face. In the world of HR tech, there are many examples of innovative pivoting and diversification - all with the intention of helping HR teams to successfully navigate the new normal.
What are your immediate business plans in the wake of this crisis? How will your products/services be moulded to meet current needs? How will you resource this? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered via your multi-channel PR and marketing efforts. Doing so will provide your customers (and prospective customers) with the requisite assurances that your company is the right fit for them, both now and into the future.
5. Social responsibility
A company’s values and its commitment to social responsibility should feature in any strategic communications plan but right now, it’s even more essential to show that your company has a purpose beyond profit.
In the post-pandemic era, customers will gravitate towards brands that have prioritised their people and their environment during the crisis, and when choosing an HR tech vendor, they will want to see strong alignment with their own values and culture. This calls for targeted and consistent communications that reinforce why and how your company is socially responsible. In doing this, you’ll increase positive positioning and competitive advantage - both of which are key to standing out in a crowded market.
If you’d like to discuss your post-COVID comms strategy, please get in touch.
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