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What have we learned about communications from the last lockdown?

Darren Northeast
Posted by Darren Northeast on 11.11.2020

As we live and work through another period of national lockdown, we thought we’d take this opportunity to reflect on what we learned about effective communication the first time around, and how that experience can help us navigate through lockdown 2.0.

Don’t become ‘white noise’

As lockdown has once again shut down many of the usual modes of contact with clients and customers, business owners know they must make new efforts to keep in touch and maintain those relationships.

The temptation can be to ‘push the panic button’ and pepper your customers’ news feeds with a series of dissonant, random, and, let’s be honest, often quite pointless and irritating little interjections, just to have something to say.

To avoid becoming ‘white noise’ to your customers, it’s best to lay off the ‘Hey it’s Monday!’ and ‘oh look, it’s Friday!’ type posts and random links to news stories of the day, and instead develop a more considered and consistent approach.

Keep messages meaningful, relevant, and limited in number to cut through that general noise that erupts across social media, and offer something more consistent with your values and brand.

So what kind of messages work?

As we saw in the previous lockdown, people don’t want to be bombarded with tone-deaf salesy communications when they have so much to deal with already. Instead, try to think about what you can offer which will be helpful, useful, or at the very least entertaining.

That might be creating a how-to video for curling your hair if you’re a hairdresser for example, or a Facebook live session on how to navigate furlough and COVID support grants if you’re an accountant. Think about your skillset and how you can help your clients and customers; even if you’re not making any money on it, it’s time well spent as you will be connecting with them and banking their goodwill and loyalty to boot.

It’s also worth thinking about ways to ‘give back’ to the community your business is a part of. Avoid virtue-signally and bandwagon-jumping which can be spotted a mile off – changing your Facebook photo isn’t going to cut it. If you can do or offer something that genuinely makes a difference it won’t go unnoticed.

If you can, share a story from your business which provokes a ‘crikey moment’ as Darren Slade, group business editor at the Bournemouth Echo and Southern Echo puts it; a unique, funny, or unusual titbit that gets a reader to sit up and pay attention is a definite positive.

Keep advertising

While it can be tempting to forgo advertising when you can’t currently deliver a service or product in the normal way, don’t make that mistake. This lockdown will be far shorter than its predecessor (we hope!) so it’s vital to remain visible to clients and customers – you can still respond to them, and book them in for a later date if needs be.

It’s also true that as other businesses, potentially your competitors included, withdraw their advertising, costs often go down – across both print and digital mediums. So you could snap up a bargain while you’re at it.

Tune into the zeitgeist

To avoid making jarring comments and issuing poorly received messages, think about the mood of your audience. They will likely share your own sense of deep frustration and concern at both the necessity of, and the impact of yet another national shutdown.

Remember positivity is always more welcome than doom and gloom! You might also take into account the heightened awareness your client base will now have of the risk this lockdown poses to the businesses they love and rely on; they may be looking for opportunities to show their support for you, so make sure you provide them, whether that’s creating a new loyalty membership scheme or inviting them to like and share your Facebook page or share a review online.

And by thinking about how consumer behaviour is being altered by this time, you may unlock new opportunities; remember about the cafes which turned into take-aways overnight or the distilleries which started making hand sanitiser during the spring lockdown? If you’re flexible enough to respond to what people want and need now, you could end up not only coming through this second lockdown – but coming through it stronger!

Stay positive and keep creative everyone. And if you think you might benefit from a PR professional’s hand on the tiller as you navigate this next stretch of 2020 into 2021, make sure you get in touch!