As I write this, the UK government has just announced its most recent round of resignations – the PM included. There seems to be no end to the uncertainty and turmoil.
If it’s not political, it’s an environmental catastrophe. If it’s not the environment, it’s the economy. And if it’s not that, it’s… well you get the gist.
In a time of continuous breaking bad news, our brand content, messages and comms can feel pretty pointless. Will people care? Is anyone even reading this?
And that’s understandable. There are bigger things going on in the world right now. Things that may be impacting and capturing the attention of our audiences more than our new product launch or piece of content, for example. But does that mean we should press pause?
Of course not.
However, this does beg the question… how do we break through the bad news?
Here are some things to consider:
Be empathetic, provide a helping hand
Much like our customers, we are probably also feeling anxious and uncertain about what the future holds and what is the best way to proceed. So, we don’t even need to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes to understand their needs.
This should help you be more empathetic with any brand output you create. For example, we know the cost of living crisis is causing customers to act more cautiously towards purchases, with 60% of adults already spending less on non-essential items. Therefore, hard selling is probably not the most suitable route to take with your communications at this time. This could also include promoting discounts and sales, which force shoppers to act spontaneously and urgently to not miss out on the limited-time-only deal. Down the line, this one purchase might prevent a more essential need, or create more anxiety surrounding their financial position.
However, as businesses, we need to make revenue, especially as our costs also increase. We need to find a balance. Something ethical, empathetic and which keeps our customers engaged and interested. All while our brand remains front of mind when the need, or suitable time to make a purchase, arises.
So, be helpful. Focus on creating content and messaging that educates and supports the customer journey, and helps shoppers come to an informed decision on whether the time, item or service is right for them. For example, guides and comparisons could make all the difference when customers are choosing between you and a competitor, as they equip them with the knowledge they need to make the right choice. By providing this support, your brand may already be more favoured.
Essentially, customers need to feel like they are in control of their decisions, particularly when there is so much going on which is out of their hands. The more you can do to support your customers with this, the better. Those that do this best will be the ones that will remain first-choice. A little helping hand goes a long way.
Similarly, trust is an important factor in purchasing decisions during times of uncertainty. As customers rein in their spending or become more conscious towards their purchase choices, their trust in a brand can influence who they buy from.
Therefore, increasing trust signals is key. These signals can include anything from customer reviews and ratings, testimonials, case studies and industry accreditations. For most brands, collecting and promoting each of these has become standard practice, and if they are not, there has never been a more important time for them to be a focus in your marketing plan.
However, in today’s climate, there is a need for brands to do more in order to keep customers engaged. Trust must be built at every stage of the customer journey, from the initial touch point, right through to the after-sales service.
For example, with increasing privacy concerns among consumers, tactics such as remarketing after an initial brand interaction may not be as effective as they traditionally have been. This is due to both the phasing out of third-party cookies, as well as diligent customers who are becoming more aware of how their data is being tracked and used. Brands that are seen to be using data solely for transactional advertising may be less favoured and trusted than those actively building a first-party database to understand customer needs and preferences, and then targeting them with more suitable content.
Throughout the customer journey, there should also be strong signals for your customer service. This can include clear ways to get in touch in order to humanise the process, particularly for online journeys, as well as clear information regarding delivery, returns and privacy. Each of these details will help to instil trust in customers, ultimately supporting them in their journey, and keeping them engaged and focused on completing the purchase.
Be flexible and act fast
With the news cycles continuously changing, we must ensure our content is always timely and appropriate, which can sometimes be challenging when things are planned and scheduled in advance. One wrong post can be detrimental to your brand reputation, particularly with companies being under even greater scrutiny by consumers.
Therefore, if you plan and schedule content, it has never been more important to revisit plans often to check the suitability of messages in the context of the current climate. As well as upcoming content, it is also recommended that older posts are checked from time to time. Outdated messages may not be appropriate for today’s climate so revisiting these can also help save brand reputation. However, it is always best to be transparent and honest. If deleting or editing an outdated piece of content, you might want to explain why to emphasise the age of the piece and that you understand it is not appropriate in today’s context. It’s all about taking accountability and showing your awareness of your role as a brand.
It is also important to allow room for flexibility so you can create content that is reactive to breaking news stories that may be relevant to your brand or industry. As well as helping your company stay relevant, it is also a way to become part of the news cycle, rather than trying to break through it with unrelated messages. Newsjacking isn’t necessarily a bad approach if you have something important to add.
Turn off the news and take a break
Working in content, whether it’s your sole focus or just part of your job, can be exhausting, especially in the current breaking bad news cycle. Unknowingly, you have more than likely fallen into the role of keeping up with every update. While this can be overwhelming enough, you then have to think about what this could mean for your brand and content. Take time to switch off.
Everything does not need to be made into content. Well, at least not instantly, every time. While you might feel like you’re missing out on an opportunity, taking a break can help you clear your mind and as a result, find a more thoughtful and creative approach that will be more effective in achieving your goals. But work aside, it will do wonders for your personal well-being too, which at the end of the day, is what’s most important.
…. And there will be more on this as the stories develop, which I have no doubt they will!
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