By Amina Brai Omoike
Ever since the deadly coronavirus pandemic struck and disrupted social and economic activities across the world, a new term has found its way into the English lexicon. It is called the ‘new normal‘. Truly, the pandemic has changed the world the way we knew it. All facets of human life have gone through an unplanned transformation, from politics, economic, healthcare, to entertainment, sports, religion, public relations and communications.
There is an increasing adoption of digital technology across industries such that almost every human activity now is virtual; face-to-face interactions are fewer and far apart. Corporate meetings and events are now organised online: company Annual General Meetings (AGMs), product launches, strategy meetings, etc. Even companies now manage their vendors virtually.
With the adoption of digital technology comes less commuting as people can participate in webinars or virtual meetings / events from anywhere in the world. An equally important development is the increasing adoption of remote working protocol by organisations. Following the lockdown, many businesses were forced to adopt the ‘remote work’ model. The virus has equally changed the way we consume information or interface with media platforms.
Many of the above scenarios are not likely to change much post COVID-19. For instance, the era of virtual meetings or events may not end soon because of its cost effectiveness. Companies no longer have to spend millions organising grand events. Also, many businesses have seen the benefits of remote working and may partially or fully adopt it, going forward.
As these changes take place so will brand engagements with key stakeholders. For effective communication of brand essence and value proposition, it is important that business managers fully understand the new trends and fashion out ways to exploit them to deliver messaging that resonates with the target audience. This is where PR managers and consultants must step in to guide business communications in terms of appropriate messaging and relevant platforms.
Trends and PR strategies
Digital media platforms remain the clear winner in the COVID-19 era and will possibly be post COVID-19. Digital newspapers, streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and HBO Now, digital radio, chatrooms, etc are the most consumed media now. So, brands must be advised to reshuffle their advertising and marketing portfolios to take full advantage of this. Influencer marketing remains a potent tool to engage the digital crowd.
The months of lockdown followed by remote work have had a positive effect on TV viewership and TV content consumption. More Nigerians now watch TV and for longer hours compared to the pre-COVID-19 period. A KPMG report in 2020 showed that “demand for TV programmes continues to rise.” Data by Statista on media consumption in Nigeria released last year showed that TV viewership had risen as the second most consumed media behind the internet. According to the Statista report, 93% of Nigerians with access to the media now consume TV, with News, Sports, Movies, and Talk shows being the most popular. PR professionals need to guide their clients to feature more on TV, particularly exploring appearances on TV shows and news belts.
In the same vein, Out of Home advertising is clearly dwindling as people now have to do less commuting making billboards ‘harder’ to see. Clients need to be more strategic in the deployment of OOH materials. There is a need to now deploy these materials closer to residential areas where impact will likely be higher. Clients may also want to rethink the amount of money spent on billboards, lamp poles and other collateral on highways and business districts.
Less commuting also means a drop in radio listenership which was typically boosted by commuters travelling from home to work and back, as well as people commuting to events and meetings. The Statista survey showed that radio listenership in 2020 was about 67% while TV rose to 93%. Hence, clients may want to review their radio ad spend to determine if they are getting desired value for such spends.
Knowing where to engage the target audience is just half of the story for brands. They must also be guided on appropriate messaging that will resonate with the audience. Increasingly, consumers are demanding more ‘listening’ from brands. Thankfully, many of the TA are on digital platforms and a brand must be able to scan the social media platforms, examine the posts, administer surveys to get further feedbacks to understand the pulse of the people and fashion appropriate messaging that will resonate and help enhance brand reputation and acceptance.
A brand must be able to decipher the key concerns of its target audience. For instance, due to the pandemic and rising crime rate, people are increasingly anxious about their health, financial and physical security, job and business opportunity, etc. A brand that is able to show empathy in its messaging will be well loved.
It is very unlikely that the world, including Nigeria, will ever go back to the old ways, even when the coronavirus has finally been conquered. Thus, for the brands that desire to emerge stronger from the pandemic, it is important to be mindful of emerging trends and tap into them as appropriate, working closely with PR experts.
Amina is a media relations expert with MediaCraft Associates. She can be reached on [email protected]