In crisis-ridden scenarios like Covid-19, customers expect clarity in information shared and timely responses from the brand
By Ruchika Mehta and Aman Dhall
In the middle of the lockdown, as people and businesses struggled to stay afloat, we were reflecting on how marketing communication leaders were at the forefront of this unique crisis, in more ways than one, managing content and communications for all kinds of stakeholders an organization deals with.
That’s where the idea of a”CommsChat” series crossed our mind, we felt this was the most opportune way right now to give back to our community, businesses on the learning that we can share from our experiences, and gather from the most influential leaders across the board from India, and globally, on the role communication plays in an organization’s growth, reputation, and crisis management.
In our first chat, we decided to discuss — Is communication the marketing tool business needs in time of crisis. Here’re our four takeaways from the first session we did.
Invest In Content Leadership
In crisis-ridden scenarios like COVID19, customers expect clarity in information shared and timely responses from the brand. Even employees seek reassurance that all is well. To remain relevant and trustworthy to all your stakeholders, content leadership becomes extremely critical.
During such situations, content has the power to build long-term relationships with customers, employees, shareholders and can drive consumer behavior to strong brand loyalty.
Paresh Chaudhry, group president, corporate brand custodian at Adani Group, believes that these are the opportunities where companies needs to step up in brand building efforts through earned thought leadership. You must “communicate 360 degrees across stakeholders. Remember financial analysts will be very important stakeholder post-COVID.”
At B2B travel tech company, RateGain, Apurva Chamaria, their chief revenue officer, says that the focus remains on challenging teams to develop content that has high shareability. “We have doubled our marketing spends on creating content across webcasts, webinars, podcasts, live sessions, and videos, as it’s the most effective way for us to communicate and engage with our clients right now. We are ensuring that we discuss positive scenarios in our discussion themes, be it ‘recovery’, ‘post-COVID scenarios’, or ‘preparing for future’.”
At IBM, Deepali Nair, their CMO in India and South East Asia Region, says that the two big areas of their spends remain the same – Brand, Performance Marketing. However, “the focus has shifted to content and content development. The channels and tactics are being re-thought.”
Reimagine, Redesign — Be A Moment Marketer
You need to be nimble-footed and reimagine how your brand can stand out with marketing and communication during crisis. Brands such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Audi AG and Volkswagen AG smartly redesigned logos to celebrate the spirit of social distancing amidst COVID-19 crisis. The message was to encourage people to maintain social distancing while they were out.
Similarly, a number of hospitality brands stood out by smartly spreading the message of hope and care through moment marketing. Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, The Park Hotels* and The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) are some of the shining examples, using the moment to share that the brand cares for consumer.
In short, brands are working towards building optimistic feelings for a positive future. So thought leaders are re-examining their existing pipelines of ideas and realigning them in the context of the crisis.
Be Employee-first — Make Them Your Warriors
While business continuity is extremely critical, a global pandemic like this needs a lot of rationality with empathy built in your messaging towards employees-first and then customers. “Employee experience and well-being must take center-stage. Keeping them inspired and engaged is most important. Both their mental and physical well-being is key, as they are your first brand ambassadors. Listen to them how they want the brand to respond to the crisis, after all they are the ones who built it for you,” says Swati Bhattacharya, chief communications and brand officer at Bajaj Group.
The Bajaj Group’s chairman, Kushagra Bajaj, in fact, sent out a strong message to his employees publicly, that “no one will lose their jobs.” This is his assurance to them and their families. The tone in his communication, is an example of what a strong employee message, can do for the morale, resilience, and well being of the brand.
Apurva Chamaria, concurs so, he believes internal communication is what can make or break your brand reputation during the crisis. “Every piece of information – good or bad travels. Internal communication is as good as external communication. Use it to quash any unwanted rumors, and showing your value for employees, it can become a very powerful tool for making your people bond, and feel a cohesive unit to battle it out.”
At IBM India & SouthAsia, Deepali Nair says the period of crisis is all about employee-first attitude. According to her, “it’s the human spirit which will win the day.” She says that the company is using very high frequency in communication with employees during the current times.
Reassess And Reinforce Your Brand Promise
Even as companies focus on realigning and re-imagining how the future of business will look like, the brand promise must be reinforced at every stage through this challenge-driven journey. Paresh Chaudhry believes that amplifying and radiating positivity in your brand messaging is important. You must “keep the tone real and reinforce brand promise at all times,” he says.
So believes, Deepali Nair, however she feels that brand messaging needs to be through an appropriate channel, and nothing compares to a strong word-of-mouth sharing. “Enable your leadership team to speak and reach out; ensure your digital assets have appropriate content; ensure your employees know who to reach out to for guidance. Not all can be achieved through social media or digital banners or TV ascertaining or press releases.”
And why not — reputation management is an essential part of doing business, the brand messaging should deliver a genuine and active dialogue that engages and empowers stakeholders. “The brand must tell authentic and compelling stories to increase customer confidence in products and services, these ultimately drive business growth, when demand starts to pick up,” says Bhattacharya.
The ongoing crisis is both a challenge and an opportunity, which has opened up various new narratives, where we are relooking and rethinking the way stakeholder engagement can take place henceforth. The good part is, the marketing communications leaders are the forefront of anticipating and understanding consumers’ behavior in a far better way. And why not — through our experience we know, what can be possibly more engaging and how a brand positioning should be.
This we believe is the time for the fraternity to shine and sail our ships through the storm, with a zeal not seen before.
Ruchika Mehta is corporate director, communications and PR at Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels, and Aman Dhall heads corporate communications at PolicyBazaar.com. The views expressed are personal here.