Among the many distinctive characteristics of the current health and economic crisis, what strikes me the most is without doubt its universal nature. This is probably the first time since the Homo sapiens spread to the four corners of the Earth that we find ourselves facing the exact same crisis at the exact same time. Looking at the scale of the situation and its global dimension, it’s quite clear to me that having an international vision is immensely valuable right now – not only to understand the current crisis and the changes that are taking place, but also to be inspired as we seek the solutions that will help us come out stronger on the other side.
In order to gain insight on this, I have reached out to some of the international partners I have worked with in recent years. I will share their view of the situation as contributions come in, starting today with two of our closest neighbours: Germany and the United Kingdom.
Heike Schubert, Managing Director of the German office of Allison+Partners, Munich
After several months of complete shut down and a significant restriction of citizens’ constitutional rights, Germany is now entering the first stages of reopening public life. While Germans were given more freedom to leave their homes for walks, go exercise or shop for essential goods in comparison to what happened in France for instance, the one leading topic in all discussions at the moment is that of a swift return to a system that will restore our fundamental rights.
And the other thing on which experts, the media and individuals all seem to agree is that it won’t be possible to go back to how things were before. In fact, we don’t actually want to go back to the “old world”. The list of things we don’t want to go back to includes: the lack of consideration given to health workers, supermarket employees, truck drivers and other essential workers; the way we travel; the waste of resources; unhealthy work-life balance; our poor approach of mental health and well-being; the way we work; the way the school system works… and many other issues that are now under scrutiny.
The current debates taking place around these topics will most certainly have an impact on the way we do PR in the future. PR professionals must therefore pay attention to this time of reflection. Things are no longer set in stone, which is an opportunity for innovation and positive change. And the products and services that support this kind of change, as well as initiatives to improve current issues, are likely to attract interest.
Another avenue to explore is promoting expertise. In these uncertain times, everyone is looking for guidance and answers to help overcome current challenges. In a world that is more attentive than ever to the words of scientists telling us how to get out of the current pandemic, proven expertise will be highly values and will no doubt find an audience.
Sue Grant, Head of B2B, Allison+Partners UK, London
The B2B IT sector has always been thriving and particularly resilient. It is therefore not all that surprising that, despite the crisis, a number of tech sectors such as health tech, data analysis, AI and cyber security for example, continue to be incredibly busy.
But while it seems that B2B IT is partially “sheltered” from the current situation, the fact remains that brands will have to adapt their communication, tone and messages to what is starting to be commonly referred to as the “After Time”.
Companies should focus on three key areas to navigate this new environment and position themselves for future success.
- First, they need to keep producing relevant, high-quality content for their audiences. While priority being given to COVID-19 coverage means there is currently less opportunity to get into the national media, trade and specialist titles are actively looking for new material, fresh angles and original perspectives.
- It’s also vital that companies stay connected with their clients and prospects, as well as focus on bringing them as much value as possible. While doing so, they need to ensure that their marketing actions reflect what’s going on for their customers and prospects and help address the sort of issues they might be facing (sales, supply chain, etc.). For instance, a company may well want to communicate on initiatives such as free provision of services, or highlight how it is supporting customers, in the short and long term.
- Finally, companies need to tailor their communication. While staying true to their brand purpose, they need to provide clear and relevant messages suited to the situation. Working on the tone of those messages is equally as important. In order to maintain trust and loyalty, brands will need to act with empathy and engage with customers through authenticity and factual integrity, without giving in to hype.
While they continue to do business and strive to maintain media coverage, companies must be sensitive to the situation and not seek to capitalize on the crisis in any way. By rising up to the new challenges the world is facing and innovating to meet client needs, the tech sector may be well placed to grow and flourish as it gets through this most unusual year.