Integrated strategy, leveraged tactics: Engaging with a Consumer Audience During COVID-19
While COVID-19 has led to a boom in demand for Zoom, delivery services, and Peloton, plenty of brands are facing increased communication challenges, tightened budgets and a steep learning curve as they adapt to a digital-only landscape.
While digital, social and search channels are seeing record traffic from stay-at-home audiences, few brands have the ad budgets to capitalize on them. Organic content teams are scrambling. PR teams are searching for angles. But the market is noisy and reporters are inundated with stories in the crowded media landscape. So how do you stand out? Integrate. Not just your tactics, but your strategy and mindset for the better.
Whether you’re reaching out to reporters or building targeted lead-gen campaigns, a fully integrated program of PR, owned content, social channels, and paid advertising should be fully integrated in your strategy. Here’s where to start.
Identify Your End Game
At this point in the coronavirus crisis, many companies have found themselves more concerned with customer retention than acquisition, given the number of consumers on a tighter budget than ever before. Before building out plans, figure out what you want your audience to do. Consider whether it is worthwhile to push them to buy or highlight the value in services and products that they already may have invested in instead.
Provide real value to audiences in the most efficient way possible. This doesn’t always equal sales, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable.
Figure Out What You Want to Say
Although we’re all facing new hurdles, our core challenges remain the same. In order to stand out in a crowded communications landscape, brand voices need to develop and maintain firm, impactful POVs and build trust with the media, consumers, influencers and other stakeholders.
This is where sensitivity training comes into play. Empathy is key, and audience research is paramount. If a platform planned in isolation and deployed without due diligence and testing sounds offensive or insensitive, it will undo all your other investments. Now is the time for brand leaders to read the room. Look for increased confidence in their messaging and avoid promoting products and services in a tone-deaf manner.
Digital platforms can help. Message testing surveys, segmented audiences and A/B testing can provide baseline engagement and quantified proof to reinforce creative decisions. As an agency, we can do the same with media, leveraging our insights from daily contact with the publications you need to reach, and data on the approaches which are gaining traction in a crowded, complex and changing market.
… And How You Want to Say It
If you want to be understood, use the language your audience is already familiar with. There is no more direct route to finding that language than by researching the search terms that people are using to research your industry or solve their problems.
Those have changed throughout the shelter-in-place orders, and differ between city, state and region. Now is a good time to explore new insights before infusing them across all your channels, including PR. People often research the terms they read. An integrated approach can pay unexpected dividends, while also unlocking efficiencies.
By uncovering the new ways people are searching, you’ll capture new audiences and generate fresh content ideas. What’s top of mind for them and what problems they face are all just a search query away.
The most valuable thing a brand can do is listen and be a partner to its audience. This means understanding what people want and need, figuring out how best to deliver those experiences that will help them and doing so through the channels they are best placed to access.
It’s far from easy, but developing an integrated mindset and aligned tactical execution is the key to reaching and engaging consumers. Not just during the age of COVID-19, but in the forever-changed world we will share when the coronavirus is a distant memory.
If you’d like to learn more about how Highwire can help your company better engage with your target audience, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.