Surekha Ragavan
Apr 27, 2020

How brands are prioritising tact and conscious comms

A Red Havas report details the ways brands are pivoting toward more human and accessible messaging amid the crisis.

How brands are prioritising tact and conscious comms

During the COVID-19 crisis, brands are not just scrambling to minimise losses and keep staff retained. They’re also more conscious than ever about the values and qualities they’re projecting to the public. A new report by Red Havas expands on the various ways brands are navigating this new terrain.

Reading the room

According to the report, the crisis has forced PR practitioners to practice “the art of tact”. As always, brands and agencies should understand that news consumers have a strong radar for authenticity, and those that put out insensitive and irrelevant content at this time will face consequences by journalists and news consumers alike. PRWeek would argue that the art of tact should be a given at all times, pandemic or not. 

Testing the concept of ‘purpose’

Now, more than ever, is a time where consumers are putting brands on the chopping block because of their COVID-19 responses. In a Twitter user survey, 77% agreed they feel more positively about brands making an effort to support society during the crisis. While many marketers have understandably pressed pause on their comms, the ones that acknowledged the issue early and reimagined their messaging to meet the new needs of their audiences have succeeded in driving a positive share of voice.

Many brands, including DBS, are rethinking their purpose by donating and helping vulnerable communities

Increased importance on employee wellbeing

A surge of ‘humanity’ for employees has been a trend in the news and among consumers. The report says the companies that act humanely right now will be remembered for years to come, by both consumers and employees, and the same applies to those who miss the mark. So far, retailers like Starbucks and Target have received positive press coverage for their humane employee schemes. We’ll argue that brands would do well to emphasise their employees at all times and not just during a heavily scrutinised crisis.

Brand ‘challenges’ have become a thing

TikTok is a rare winner amid this crisis as brands and consumers turn to the platform to generate fun, harmless content. This could be in the form of challenges where brands turn to user-generated content to continue the conversations around their products. Oreo, for instance, created a challenge where it encouraged social media uses to put a cookie on their forehead and move it to their mouth without using their hands. In exchange, the brand donated to Save The Children. Audi, meanwhile, asked users to recreate the four rings of its logo using everyday objects.

A more ‘human’ social media voice

According to the report, social media is having a “full-circle” moment with brands and users forgoing the usual standards of highly curated images and captions. At this time, content with simple, friendly, and genuine messaging is tracking far better. One example cited was Marriott International, whose CEO Arne Sorenson conveyed business updates to employees via a reassuring video.

Mental health at the forefront

Many organisations and brands have pivoted to prioritising mental health as many workers are experiencing anxiety due to layoffs or economic uncertainty. Brands that step up to help consumers through mental difficulties in this period will be regarded well. For instance, Kate Spade launched a 24/7 crisis text line for healthcare professionals to cope with anxiety. Overall, a Group Nine survey showed that 34% of consumers are spending more time focusing on online content about health and wellness.

Added value to journalism

In the area of media and journalism, the report pointed out that the pandemic has reminded brands and consumers of the vital role of journalists and the news. The report predicts that the younger generation of consumers—who are already more inclined to pay for news and entertainment—will be susceptible to new payment models that create financial stability in the publishing world. The report doesn’t say if this might also shift brand media spend towards publishing and news in the future.

News consumption not helping adspend

While news consumption rises, many advertisers are still cutting spend, especially with valuable broadcast content being postponed or cancelled, leading to spending reallocations by advertisers and a subsequent drop in income for media companies. This has left freelancers in the lurch and newsrooms to execute rounds of layoffs.

Retaining captive attention

As a majority of the workforce is working from home and is more captive than before, brands are trying to gain from this heightened attention span by putting out conscious, relevant content. We’ve compiled some ways brands in Asia have successfully done that.

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