The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown everything into flux. Communications and marketing have been no exception. With both staff and customers being largely remote, conferences and events disrupted, and a growing sense of product apathy among the public, companies have a serious communications hurdle to overcome. Many companies have seen this as an opportunity to update their websites and refocus their communications, both internal and external.
As advertising and marketing budgets are down for almost everyone, organisations are turning to low cost ways to promote themselves, such as social media. However, the huge increase in LinkedIn users and oversaturation of posts has made it difficult to cut through the noise.
People over products
These issues have come with a consequent change in behaviour, and successful companies will take advantage of emerging trends: people are now actually reading their emails. This, however, doesn’t mean they are necessarily following calls to action: therefore, in order to promote your business effectively, make it as simple as possible. A clear concise subject line that can be read in full before opening the email, and a big shiny call to action button, are paramount. In addition, people are responding less to corporate advertising, and more to real people. LinkedIn recently shared data on the kinds of posts its users were reacting to most positively, and the results unsurprisingly showed that those sharing authentic personal experiences had the most interactions.
Internally, up to date information is more essential than ever. As lockdown rules and advice change almost daily, it’s important for employers to ensure the entire team is briefed on those changes and how they affect the organisation. Employers have an added responsibility they have arguably never had before: ensuring the social aspect of the office continues when everyone is so socially distant. This involves informal video chats, quiz nights, WhatsApp groups entirely dedicated to employee’s pet selfies; whatever the best way to engineer the organic conversations that usually happen over the office kettle boiling.
A new area of focus is video conferencing, for both meetings and conferences. With the demise of Skype, many video platforms have emerged to fill the hole, including Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet. Events production platforms are using creative means of encouraging attendees to interact, with virtual exhibition spaces, meeting rooms and “mingling” spaces.
Online platforms have also meant that many events that were previously confined to just one region or country are now accessible to international attendance, creating more opportunities.
Taking the positives
A positive and unintended consequence of video conferencing is that everyone’s voice is at the same volume, and the speaker’s face centres on the screen. This makes it easier for more softly spoken speakers, often women, to be heard and have their contributions acknowledged.
Whether it is cats on keyboards or kids joining calls, we are seeing folk as people, not just professionals. Companies which have been able to cut through the noise are those which have recognised the power of people: focusing on wellbeing and equality, giving a voice to their employees, letting customers speak on their behalf.
Predicting the future
It’s hard to know what the future will bring, but it’s clear that life, comms and conferencing won’t return to “normal” anytime soon. Perhaps in 2021 we’ll see more ‘hybrid’ events mixing online and in-person conferencing, or outdoor events. However, it’s clear that communications must adapt to changing times. So far, those who have focused on people and purpose over products have been the most effective.
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