What was normal at the start of 2020 is normal no more. Along with the upheaval of the global pandemic, the way the live and work has changed ‘ and so, naturally, must the world of business. As habits change, engaging with audiences requires new methods and strategies. But where should you start to succeed with business communication in a post-pandemic context?
There might be a way for networking events to return, but if they do, they will look altogether different. The same is true of trade fairs. It’s going to be a long time before mingling seems like an attractive way to spend a day again. Experiential marketing, pop-up events, branded festivals ‘ the spaces that were previously golden opportunities for brands and businesses to get exposure have all but disappeared. Arguably, if they do return, they’re going to be shrouded in so much anxiety that it wouldn’t do brands much good to be associated with them.
The psychology of a crisis: reassurance is key
But there’s a shift beyond the networking and the crowded geographical spaces that it will be crucial for communicators not to underestimate. In the wake of a crisis, humans crave reassurance and transparency. Any indication of a superficial, shallow tone is likely to seem inappropriate, and a lack of clarity could be detrimental to any brand. If your tone of voice has always been far from serious, at the very least tone it down a little and find ways to demonstrate depth and genuine care. It’s possible that the days of self-serving marketing lingo are over, and that the slogan of ‘we’re all in it together’ will translate into a growing demand for cross-brand collaborations and CSR efforts.
Don’t forget internal communications
The need for a sensitive approach will be central also in terms of internal communication. Many businesses will be dealing with a reality where hundreds if not thousands of staff have had their world of work transformed overnight, and it will be up to communications teams to reassure staff both of the health and safety measures implemented when a shift towards some degree of return to the office happens, and of the security of their place in the organisation as the business regroups and finds its feet in a changed market.
Consistent experiences across virtual office spaces
With remote working likely to continue at least to some extent, it will be important for businesses to review intranets, video conferencing platforms and other shared digital platforms to ensure brand consistency and a unified, shared experience of this virtual office space, which is likely to appear as a pop-up reality in living rooms, spare rooms and home offices all over the place. Anxiety thrives on uncertainty, so clear, coherent communication is key, meaning that these spaces must be analysed just like brand touch points, even if those using them are in fact your own staff.
A return to traditional direct marketing approaches
Speaking of brand touch points, some business analysts are arguing that as much of our lives has moved online, the value of interactions on the web is diluted. At the same time, the opportunity to work from home has contributed to a new wave of de-urbanisation, which sees new but smaller clusters of audiences appear. Some predict a return to old-school cold calling, while others have emphasised the opportunity to reach people hungry for connection where they are ‘ in their homes and neighbourhoods. Branded direct mail, strategically positioned information leaflets, car decals and localised poster campaigns might bridge a gap where the route to prospects has been interrupted by change.
A time for honesty
If consistency and reassurance are likely to be the new buzzwords for business communication in a post-pandemic world, businesses would do well to adopt a two-pronged approach, reinforcing online messages with printed communications materials. QR codes might well do a comeback and help businesses connect the two, while gimmicks and over-the-top spending on flashy marketing stunts are likely to be met with suspicion. Some say that the pandemic, for all its gruesome, awful effects, taught us a lesson about the value of community and will promote another back-to-basics trend. The business communication equivalent is a return to honesty and real talk.