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Marketing in the pandemic: staying in touch to build trust

Marketing in the pandemic: staying in touch to build trust
April 14, 2020 Hilary Campton

The findings of new research into how consumers are responding to brands during the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the importance of sensitive and effective PR and marketing communications, as V Formation Director Hilary Campton explains.

Like many business owners, we’ve founHilary Campton V Formationd it hard to know how much to communicate over the past few weeks. Clients are struggling to maintain a semblance of ‘business as usual’, and we are all experiencing bouts of worry and sadness as COVID-19 reaches into many areas of our lives.

This makes it tempting to stop communicating with clients and customers in the worry that we might be “bombarding people” or getting on their nerves when they have far more important concerns. Indeed, we have all become adept at the fast-delete of an email from a brand we haven’t heard from for three years or so, telling us that they care and willing us to ‘stay safe!’.

Mass (and crass) communications aside however, marketing communications have a vital role in helping your business to maintain brand performance and influence future trust.

The recent poll, conducted by Censuswide, revealed some highly interesting stats and insights which indicate that reducing or pausing spend on communications during the crisis has the potential to be counterproductive.

The findings reveal that six out of ten consumers say the way a brand behaves during the pandemic will have a direct effect on their purchasing behaviour in the future, with nearly half (48%) saying they would trust a brand less if there was no communication during the crisis.

61 percent strongly or somewhat agree that they care more about how brands are behaving during the COVID-19 pandemic than they usually do (e.g. before the pandemic), and almost the same number agree that the way brands are behaving at the moment is going to affect their decision to give them their business in the future.

Saying nothing could be the worst thing to do

Inaction could lead to a detrimental effect on your client and customer relationships; the new research shows that ignoring COVID-19 could lead to decline in customer trust with brands. In fact, almost half (48%) of respondents stated they would trust brands less if the brand were to ignore what was happening (e.g. no communications about COVID-19). This was even more pronounced in older generations, with 56 percent of 55+ year olds stating they would trust a brand less if it was silent on COVID-19.

So how should you be communicating?

Whether your focus is on B2B or B2C marketing and communications, consumers and clients want you to be proactive with your approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. The research shows that almost 7 in 10 respondents also want brands to spread some positivity during this time.

  • Take time to revisit your content strategy for the next three months and identify how you can best help your clients and customers to manage during these difficult times – and also how you can provide positive and uplifting support.
  • Consider your channels; can you deliver some of your content as a webinar or a peer-to-peer discussion forum over one of the video conferencing facilities? (We find Zoom and Teams to be good tools.)

Marketing budgets are – hopefully temporarily! – pretty squeezed, so creativity and agility will be key.

Those of us who were marketing professionals during the 2008 recession will remember it as a time where resourcefulness, tenacity and an ability to make something out of very little saw us through.

Now, once again, it is a time for marketers to show how they can add value to their business and its clients and customers, with sensitive, relevant and brand-enhancing communications.

Over the past few weeks, V Formation has been helping businesses to put a series of short-term marketing and communications strategies in place to ensure they are able to support their clients and, importantly, emerge from the pandemic in decent shape.

For a confidential conversation about how you can adjust your communication strategy to fit the current climate, please do get in touch.


The research was conducted by Censuswide.