Two years after COVID-19 hit the world, we are witnessing the various efforts geared towards recovery – from the successful rollout of vaccination programmes to the gradual return to schools and workplaces.

But while we have come further today, there is one thing to bear in mind: this is hardly a return to “business as usual” as it is easing into the new normal. This is especially true for brands with a regional presence: elsewhere in Southeast Asia, countries are dealing with varying stages of recovery from COVID.

The lessons from the disruptions of previous years will continue in 2022, and possibly further, as public relations helps brands navigate a post-COVID landscape. How? Through genuine support and authentic connections. During 2020’s region-wide lockdowns and restrictions, brands did a tremendous job rerouting their offerings to continue serving consumers forced to stay indoors.

Today calls for sustained empathy and understanding as the region recovers from COVID. Here are ways PR can help brands avoid tone-deaf messaging and create richer connections with their community.

Genuinely engage with the community

The past two years brought the realisation that consumers look to brands to care about what is happening around them. Consumers want to know that brands understand what they are going through – and with real ramifications. Studies show that brands who demonstrate “authentic purpose” will be rewarded, as Gen Z filters brands based on purpose – and will pay more premiums for a purpose-driven brand.

The isolating effects of 2020’s circuit breaker and the constantly changing restrictions throughout 2021 made audiences yearn for human connections. Humanising brands – being able to evoke sincerity and authenticity – will continue to drive strong engagement, create community connections, and build brand trust.

Check in with your community on how they are doing, foster relationships, and advocate for their causes – emotional connections can hook your audience and get them to come back for more. Engaging and building strong ties with your community is the most organic way to turn them into brand advocates – sharing the content you create.

Help win hearts and minds

These days, it’s essential to strike a balance between respecting sensitivities and upholding brand interests. Rather than hard-selling, public relations must help brands earn a place in people’s lives by providing value.

One of the best ways to communicate your client’s brand value to audiences is by building its brand reputation and credibility through organic means and earned media. Tapping micro-influencers and key opinion leaders can serve people’s desire for authentic experiences and trustworthy recommendations that answer their needs.

Help adapt to new tech

With various restrictions in place, brands and PR practitioners needed to adapt to virtual events. This year, continued social distancing measures and reallocated budgets may push the creative limits on community engagements and brand activations through next-gen technology such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), alongside other digital tools. Becoming familiar with these tools can help enrich interactions and sustain community ties.

A PR agency attuned to adapting to new and innovative platforms can help brands navigate the idea of applying these new technologies for storytelling, so you and your team can focus on the big picture for your brand.

PR can help brands show support for consumer interests instead of their own

The pandemic and lockdowns disrupted daily living as people feared for their health and economic safety. With jobs on the line and the possibility of contracting the virus on people’s minds, consumers expect brands to acknowledge and understand the events that impact the community. For brands, this means their communication efforts and messaging must address these consumer insights more precisely. By framing your key messages in a way that specifically addresses your audiences’ concerns, this demonstrates an acute understanding of consumers’ plights during these times and makes your brand more relatable and relevant to your target audience.

In the new normal, brands need to be seen as a force for good as they tell their stories and connect with their audience. PR teams can help brands wade through the post-COVID landscape by creating genuine connections, working with the right partners and thought leaders, and helping brands tell their authentic narratives.

Blue Totem Communications’ team of specialists proudly combines experience and know-how in empathetic and effective messaging that resonates with audiences. Our agency has also formed relationships with the most respected media partners across Singapore and Malaysia, helping brands foster trust and authenticity with their audiences. Get in touch with us at today.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, consumers and audiences have all been forced indoors in a bid to prevent the further spread of infection. This has led to a surge in online activity and engagement, with brands and publishers following suit – with a wave of social media efforts, virtual events, and Zoom webinars filling in the gap for in-person events.

A year later, however, quarantine fatigue has set in – alongside a continual resurge in cases, complicating recovery plans and delaying the resumption of face-to-face affairs. In the wake of new virus strains and emerging trends in consumer behaviour, it is high time for brands and public relations practitioners to ditch the old mindset that this situation is temporary, and embrace that the new normal is here to stay.

As soon as brands and PR agencies begin to get creative with new normal restrictions, they will be able to produce winning strategies that will keep their audiences hooked and engaged. Here are some of the trends in media and PR events we anticipate to be more common in this era, as well as ways you can adopt them for your campaigns.

Explore hybrid events

A year of online webinars and virtual calls has led to the dreaded Zoom fatigue – resulting in high attrition rates and lower participation numbers. While online methods have certainly allowed organisers to reduce costs in certain aspects, these perceived savings lose their cost benefit in the long run if they result in fewer attendees and disengaged participants.

While going back to in-person conferences is unlikely for now, brands who can effectively recreate the feeling of being present in the flesh while offering interesting interactions will succeed. We have seen hybrid events that blend online and in-person activities, and these will no doubt continue. Hybrid events offer a dynamic aspect to virtual events that make them more human – resulting in better connections and a more engaging discussion that keeps your audiences tuned.

Although virtual means might offer some convenience in logistics, nothing quite beats interactions done in a physical setting. Consider having moderators and panelists in the same room or studio, while being broadcast over digital platforms and social media channels for your viewers.

Look into smaller, intimate events

As different cities continue to reassess gatherings in small groups, look into more intimate affairs – such as a tight-knit event with fewer and highly curated set of media partners and influencers as opposed to a large guestlist. While large events with a long list of attendees can create a certain impact, going by the numbers loses its relevance, especially in today’s setting.

Smaller events with a highly selected, invite-only roster allows your team to personalise the affair in a much more meaningful way that enriches your relations with media people and influencers, while crafting more significant and relevant messages for your target audiences.

Similarly, even virtual events could benefit from a smaller number of participants – a large webinar with 100 participants makes it too easy for your invited guests to zone out.

Orchestrate coordinated efforts happening around the region

While granular events at the local level are encouraged, strategising these small events must be seen from a bigger picture – think of coordinating various community events all happening simultaneously around the country or the region, all sharing the same theme or concept. This allows your brand to foster richer engagement and interactions with local thought leaders and their respective communities, while ensuring a consistent and strong brand message across the board.

Plan for a more polished and rehearsed programme

In-person events allow for candor and surprise, where elements of “expect the unexpected” make these affairs more interesting. In contrast, loosely planned virtual events can come off as lacking in preparation and monotonous, which enables participants to lose interest.

Virtual events must be planned like a concert or a television production, with a polished and rehearsed programme that provides spectacle and a clear flow that viewers can keep up with easily.

Create experiential activities

The prevalence of webinars have relegated invited attendees to mere, passive viewers – losing the opportunity for two-way interactions. When planning virtual or hybrid events, consider creating experiential activities. These can come in the form of interactive PR kits sent to influencers’ homes that allow them to take a more active part at the time of the call.

Navigate this new post-COVID landscape with the right PR partners

In the new normal, brands and PR practitioners need to step up their game in enriching interactions and shaping unique experiences. The right digital PR agency can help businesses and organisations create warm and genuine connections and tell rich narratives, even through online means.

Navigate this new post-COVID landscape with the right PR partners. Blue Totem Communications proudly combines their high-value relationships with respected media partners and influencers across Singapore, Malaysia and Southeast Asia, as well as their know-how in crafting engagement and influencer relations for brand stories that create an impact. Get in touch with us at today.

After living with COVID-19 for over a year, Southeast Asian countries continue to deal with resurges in cases and periodical lockdowns, even as recovery plans are underway. These continual scenarios have led to new behaviours and altered mindsets.

As consumers adapt to a new way of life, brands have similarly learned to shift gears and adapt to a disrupted market. But as countries hop on the road to recovery, does this signal a return to normal?

Not quite. There is no “going back to how things were” – the new normal is here and will likely remain that way for a while. That said, brands today have a unique opportunity to revisit their purpose and meaning to consumers for the long term.

Much like the vaccine, your brand could use a dose of public relations to strengthen its immunity in the new normal.

Here’s how a solid PR strategy can help you remain relevant by connecting with your community, whose perspectives have changed after the lockdown.

A solid PR strategy can boost your “line of defence”

Brands owe it to consumers to provide quality products and services, and a genuine and empathetic customer experience. Hence, the ability to consistently provide good service to the public – and solidifying your business reputation – serves as your brand’s first line of defence, protecting your business when threats are close by. Even when we manage to move past COVID-19, there’s no telling when a crisis will strike next: there’s no other time than now to engage your consumers and strengthen your relationships. Focus on managing and ensuring consistent customer experiences each time they interact with your business. While ensuring good products is a given, a proactive PR strategy is essential in creating genuine connections and fostering a community. In doing so, you create a loyal customer base that can readily act as your brand spokespersons, no matter the occasion.

A strong PR strategy can help strengthen brand trust

A PR strategy can help strengthen brand trust in the long term and further fortify your brand’s immunity. Social listening tools, monitoring conversations around your brand, and reaching out to targeted audiences can help shape richer and more precise narratives that resonate with your market. When your stories are authentic, relevant and genuinely provide value for people, it can help your target audience view you not only as a product or service provider but a brand that understands them and one they can trust. People understand your brand values and what you stand for.

Being aware of public sentiment can also help you reimagine your core offerings and amplify the right services depending on your market needs. Through PR, you can get to know what consumers value now and study how your brand can provide those needs.

Consistent and proactive PR planning helps to produce immunity for the future

The COVID-19 vaccine was created to introduce immunity against the novel disease. Similarly, your brand needs to adapt acquired immunity for the future ahead. Strengthening consumer experience and product offerings can provide a layer of protection – but to truly safeguard your brand, you need to prepare for any emerging risks. Consistent and proactive PR planning ensures that you’re not just reacting to current events; you’re preventing future brand missteps. These include possible tone-deaf messaging, especially during sensitive times, as well as conducting due diligence on influencers, thought leaders, and media partners to ensure brand safety. The crisis will change customers’ behaviours and needs, and it’s important for brands to look out for changes in consumer desires, shifts in behaviours and preferences, and new missteps or brand risks that may not have been present before.

The new normal offers brands an opportune moment to refresh their brand image – planning their communication strategy now and the future ahead. Beyond selling, your consumers must understand that you recognise the realities that people face. Connect with your communities on causes that matter to them, and uplift their spirits or stand in solidarity with them.

Need help to develop your PR strategy in this new normal?

In times of adversity, people will look back on their memory of a community coming together to withstand this period. A well-planned PR strategy ensures that brands become part of that conversation. As we venture into the new normal, the right PR team can help you navigate this uncharted territory through strategic partnerships, social listening, and creating authentic connections with the community.

Blue Totem Communications’ team of specialists proudly combines experience and know-how to help you plan ahead and create rich and lasting relationships with your consumers. Our agency has a wide network of high-value partners across Singapore, Malaysia and the SEA region, helping brands foster trust and authenticity with their audiences. Get in touch with us at today.