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 bluetotem.co/contact-us today.