by Abigail Van-Arnold, Associate Director
During this strange new world of social distancing and self-isolation, our lives as we know it have been temporarily turned on their heads. While some short-term lifestyle changes, like only leaving the house once a day are obvious, I find myself noticing smaller habitual changes too. Among these, I’ve realised that I now open marketing emails from companies far more frequently than I used to. Whether it’s emails from my favourite brands, or companies I’d long forgotten to unsubscribe from, I’m interested to see how they’re approaching the situation, and keen to find out what that means to me as a customer. I can see that brands are changing their habits too; often these emails are positioned as notes directly from the CEO.
While I firmly believe that this is the right approach, providing a personalised take on the current crisis and outlining their promise to customers; I can’t help but think how much more effective and authentic this communication would have been if these brands had just taken a more human approach sooner. If I felt I had a connection with the people behind the businesses in my inbox, I might have been opening my emails before now.
The same is especially true for B2B brands. At a time when client handlers can’t maintain relationships in person, online engagement is crucial, as businesses need reassurance that their service providers will see them safely through this challenging time.
The need for strong communication from leaders goes beyond support for customers. All stakeholders, including investors, partners, local communities and most importantly, employees need support and reassurance. When this is eventually all over, leaders will be judged on how they chose to respond in this crisis.
What do business leaders need to remember when communicating both during and beyond the current global pandemic?
- Always research, never assume. Given the unprecedented situation we’re currently in, there’s no blueprint for how to address your audience. But using research, analytics and validation to identify stakeholder priorities is always a crucial element to exec profiling; essential both as a means to determine where to reach your audiences and to build an understanding of the content that is going to resonate.
- Own your narrative. Identifying a unique voice means clearly articulating an authentic expression of who you are, what you stand for and why you’re different. That requires linking an organisation and a business leader’s character – mission, vision, purpose, values and personal experiences – with the business priorities, to define optimal narrative messages.
- Develop smart, relevant content. With a clear narrative voice in place, businesses are empowered to develop a fully integrated content strategy, tailored to audiences and platforms to ensure engagement at every influencer touchpoint.
- Excel in the execution: True executive profiling should be fully integrated across platforms. In the absence of contact leaders need to engage with their audiences through multiple touchpoints, from direct mail, to social media, earned media and (ever-growing) virtual events. A data driven approach will ensure maximum impact for each of these platforms, from mapping connections and conversations on social, to tapping into the real media trends and securing the speaker opportunities that provide reach, relevance and resonance.
- If it moves, measure it. Assessing the impact of a business leader’s thought leadership communications across the customer journey helps provide a true picture of progress. To do this, build a framework that aligns organisational goals, brand communications objectives and executive thought leadership objectives and use the findings to continue optimising the programme.
When the current crisis is over, those who showed strength of leadership will be positioned to win back stakeholders. For some, this may mean launching an executive profile-raising programme for the first time, but it shouldn’t end here. The effects of the pandemic will be felt for months and years to come and businesses may find themselves operating in a marketplace in which customers, investors and employees have different priorities and behaviours. Authentic relationships and a clear trust-worthy leadership voice will play a key role in navigating businesses through the short and long-term effects of the pandemic – while laying the groundwork for surviving and thriving despite whatever life throws at us next.