We all struggled our way through the pandemic. Individuals and businesses continue to navigate the settling waters of the epidemic with no past experience or advice from our crisis management guidebooks. As PR professionals, we know now is the time to assess our clients’ reputations and plans to move forward.

Perhaps you’re still holding on to the budget from 2020 and asking, ‘why spend money now if our customers aren’t there/aren’t travelling/aren’t buying like before?’ Well, friends, it’s now or never—it’s the voices that speak out, loudly and proudly, that will be remembered when people are ready to open their wallets again.

Read on to better understand how clever, confident PR decisions today will help you stand out tomorrow.

When you boil it down, “public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their audiences.” In essence, your offer should be as beneficial to the public as it is to your organisation, an approach that should stand out even more following COVID-19.

In the past two years, we’ve seen countless brands strive to support the community. Naturally, these are the brands consumers feel more connected to. Doing good for the public effectively builds your reputation while revamping your approach to connecting to, engaging with, and maintaining customer loyalty.

Still, that doesn’t mean we should take advantage of CSR activities to ‘score’ points for our brand. Regardless of how we put ourselves out there, it must truly and authentically align with our brand purpose. We should never ‘do good’ simply to increase revenue.

Around the world, we’ve seen as many brands show genuine support throughout the pandemic as we’ve seen imposters attempt to gain traction and publicity. For example, fast-food chain Subway faced backlash from customers and was forced to apologise when one of its stores offered free medical masks with a purchase of two sandwiches. This opportunistic manoeuvre was in bad taste, particularly while medical equipment was in short supply for healthcare and essential workers.

Alternatively, Brewdog won customers’ hearts. Despite suffering the adverse effects of the crisis, the multinational, Scotland-based brewery switched focus to produce hand sanitiser and “do everything we [could] to try and help as many people as possible stay safe.” (Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/)

Is there a cause your team is passionate about, or is there a specific way your business can help? It’s best if your chosen cause relates to your industry so you can easily use your strengths, facilities, and network. Still, as long as it comes from an authentic place, you’ll make a difference for those you support while bolstering your reputation.

The world changing seemingly overnight led to a need to live in harmony with our emotions, take care of our mental health, and manage our way through hardship. This introspective shift is an opportunity for brands to thoughtfully communicate while showing gratitude, humour, grace, and a strong sense of community.

‘Empathy’ has never been a more crucial component of PR than it is right now—the power of human touch and perspective should not be underestimated. People need sympathy and support now more than ever, a seemingly tricky tightrope to walk when considering a new communications strategy. Keeping audiences, their needs, and mentalities in mind will reflect your brand’s ability to adapt to the zeitgeist. An emotional, intimate connection will go a long way toward creating genuine loyalty that cannot be bought.

We believe the value and power of empathy are here to stay and something brands will need to cultivate. In 2020, Nike launched a global campaign entitled ‘Play for the World’, inspiring athletes to keep active while sheltering at home. The brand launched a library of digital workouts, workshops, and challenges to help people stay healthy and happy throughout the pandemic. Even Netflix, a brand that saw an inevitable uptick in use and interaction, hosted a weekly Instagram live series called ‘Wanna Talk About It?’, motivating users to look after their mental health.

COVID-19 didn’t keep events at bay for long; brands, marketers, even grandmothers all moved into the digital space, replacing the need for traditional forms of business meetings, interviews, workshops, and more. This shift led to a noticeable change in the way nearly everything is carried out. Still, it’s clear that PR activities especially will see this trend continue in the years to come.

The seamless combination of physical and online events became indispensable, making the world a much smaller and more accessible place for people around the globe—based in Vietnam but want to reach an audience in New York? Say no more! Thanks to live streaming, brands can effectively interact and engage; even real estate brands found an efficient way to sell online, especially those who deeply understood their customers’ needs and fostered a meaningful connection and sense of trust with potential buyers.

According to Emerging Trends Research from Facebook, 78% of 12,500 participants aged 18–64 said augmented reality (AR) was an interesting way to interact with brands, while 74% said AR or virtual reality (VR) would reduce the gap between online and offline. AR and VR offer customers a uniquely personalised experience in a digital world, bringing them closer to the brands they love. For instance, during the pandemic, Airbnb successfully launched Online Experiences, an effort that encouraged people to stay at home while participating in several interactive app-based activities. Chipotle, a major competitor for McDonald’s, created a series of Zoom lunch parties combining celebrity guests, free entrée giveaways, and Q&A sessions, helping the brand gain new loyal fans while profoundly boosting its image.

In summary, as the pandemic (hopefully) comes to an end, effective PR is about more than profits. It’s a ‘win together, lose together’ approach that acknowledges we’ve all been through something life-changing and that now is the time to do good, show our humanity, connect as a community, and bring some life and energy back into the world.

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