The pandemic has changed the way we operate – socially, at work, when travelling – throwing everyone and everything into disarray.
As people’s lives have been turned upside down, the job of communications professionals and marketers has also been transformed. Our raison d’être is to tap into the feelings of consumers, to understand their pain points, whether those consumers are individuals or businesses. A human-centred approach has never been more vital for marketers as we navigate new client challenges and needs. There is a demand to be more earnest than ever, more thoughtful and more attuned with consumer and business attitudes, and success in this will separate the best of brands from those who are still operating with a pre-pandemic mindset.
The impact of the virus itself, the measures to contain it, and the economic fallout have changed how people and businesses feel, and what they want to see. As a result, swathes of brand channel content that would have been on the money in February is now very out of date, potentially even tone deaf. Communications professionals have had to quickly take stock and pivot to avoid these pitfalls. However, the one good thing about the all-encompassing nature of this crisis is that marketers are experiencing it in real-time alongside their audiences, and so can understand first-hand the stresses and sensitivities that we are all developing.
This emphasises the critical importance of taking a human-centred approach to marketing. Nobody is just a marketer, an employee, or a business leader—fundamentally, everyone is a person and a consumer. This may seem like an obvious point, but following through on its logic seems to be more difficult than it might appear. To really make this insight work for us, we have to listen first, then act on what we hear to deliver what consumers really want. The ability to listen, act and offer is going to be key for any business in getting a human-led approach set in motion; the benefit to sales will most certainly make it worthwhile. This can be applied to a sales-led customer journey, or through the communications cycle: what is crucial is the ability to understand, develop a strategy, and offer a solution that is fit for the future.
Furthermore, we need the technology in place to enable strong human performance. The right marriage between technology and human output means greater productivity and profitability. From a marketing perspective, that means understanding what tools we need to develop strong outcomes and how to measure those effectively to demonstrate growth.
Agility and growth are a huge challenge for many businesses right now. We’ve seen a variety between those that have been able to pivot quickly – from restaurants entering the grocery market to retailers transitioning to digital stores overnight – to those that have made a steady change over the last quarter, and those that still need to work on refreshing their post-COVID business model. Businesses that have strong renewed communications strategies, that can share success and demonstrate vision and continued innovation are those that will continue to reap success in both a pandemic and post-pandemic world.
Essential to this is practicing what you preach. In the age of coronavirus, it’s key that brands find ways to have face-time: virtual is better than nothing and businesses need to ensure they continue to push this type of personal marketing. Getting in front of audiences is more important than ever before. Marketing shouldn’t stop during this challenging time, but it needs to change in synchrony as the world around it changes. Offering virtual conferences or video events for example help to ensure messages are still communicated, potential sales are made and learning is enabled. The ability to keep sharing and marketing directly to remote audiences will be central in finding long-term survival strategies for both your business and those you support.
Ultimately, businesses are built by people, and after months of being isolated in our own homes, many of us have realised that human connection is the one thing nothing can replace. Those businesses that recognise that, adapt and readjust their offering, with sensitivity, will be in the camp that benefit and grow, and weather the crisis of 2020 (and let’s face it, beyond).