How Covid-19 is reinventing client-agency relationship

October 25, 2020 3:20 PM

Covid-19 has underscored the significance of continuous communication to help consumers cope with the crisis

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted brands to reevaluate the purpose of communicationThe Covid-19 pandemic has prompted brands to reevaluate the purpose of communication

By Khushboo Sharma Solanki

As the festive season inches closer in India amid Unlock 5.0, brands are mulling ways to leverage it to their best potential, albeit with all necessary precautions and safety measures. With the loss of clients, shrinking retainers and delayed payment, the lockdown had spelled a series of hardships for integrated marketing communication agencies. As the Indian economy limps back to normalcy through the Unlock phases, the marketing communication landscape is trying to cope with the new normal through a process of trial and error. Covid-19 has prompted these agencies to think, reflect and assess and reimagine their relationships with their clientele in a fundamental way. Here are the following ways how Covid-19 is reinventing client-agency relationships.

Significance of communication: Covid-19 has underscored the significance of continuous communication to help them cope with the crisis. Empathy, innovation and relevance is the key to building a loyal customer base and mitigating economic uncertainty. The same rules extend to the client-agency relationships as well. Since the whole world is sailing in the same boat, evaluate the scenario from the clients’ perspective and how you would have adapted to the crisis had you been in their place. Agencies need to stay connected with clients either through calls, Skype, or Video conferencing at not only a professional but also at a personal level. Remembering occasions like their birthdays and anniversaries can build bridges in relationships to ensure that they count you in as a valuable partner and an extended arm amid the crisis.

Need for collaboration: It is an opportune moment for agencies to step up their collaborative efforts and incorporate a diversity of perspectives to come up with disruptive solutions for brands. Weekly brainstorming sessions, competition mapping, media mapping and identifying priorities can go a long way in ensuring a smooth sail.

Change in objective and purpose of communication: The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted brands to reevaluate the purpose of communication. During the pre-Covid time, the role of marketing communication had undergone a paradigm shift from that of enhancing reputation and brand development to influencing sales and business outcomes. However, Covid-19 has put a reset button on these objectives. It has underscored the need for brands to shift from a hard-selling approach to purposeful communication to stay connected with the target audience and resolve the day-to-day challenges faced by them. Agencies should take the onus of counselling their clients to tailor their communication strategy in tune with the demands of the current time such as weaving a powerful message to engage with stakeholders, adopting immersive storytelling to increase consumers’ confidence and build trust and undertaking the initiatives of giving back to the society and much more.

Agencies on their part, need to also adopt cautious and emphatic media outreach amid increased work pressure in newsrooms among several hardships. It is equally important to be thoroughly abreast of the news-cycle as the focus of coverage has now shifted from the implications of the pandemic to how the brands are coping with the Unlock phases.

Optimum utilization of limited resources: If you are resource-constrained; so are your clients. Think of creative and innovative ways of how you can use limited resources to their best potential. This applies to your employees as well that must be utilized at an optimum level rather than at a maximum level, to prepare them for the long haul and encourage their retention. Similarly, think about how you can utilize limited retainer fees to add maximum value to your clients’. As clients slash their marketing budgets, shrinking retainers and increasing the trend of hiring freelancers has gained currency. As the value for money approach gains precedence, agencies must be willing to go the extra mile and deliver certain add-ons to enhance clients’ experiences.

Focus on fundamentals: Agencies need to go back to the drawing board and focus on profitable avenues- brand positioning, digital media planning and buying, e-commerce marketing, web content strategy and development and social media marketing. Though Covid-19 has invariably accelerated the pace of digitization, an omnichannel marketing strategy with digital accounting for a larger share than during the pre-Covid era, a mix of paid, owned and earned media due to shrinking print spaces and budget constraints have come to the forefront. At the same time, focus on near and immediate goals instead of long-term ones and health and safety as a key differentiator of brand communication are among the trends that have also gained currency.

Employees are a valuable resource and the key to enhancing relationships with your clients. So, invest in upskilling, training and retaining their workforce.

Client-agency relationships are corollary to customer-brand relationships. Reflecting on course corrections, intensifying 360-degree engagement, collaborating with them to come up with innovative solutions is a way forward to navigate through this unprecedented time.

The author is founder, Zero Gravity Communications

Read Also: Why mobile games will drive digital advertising in India

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