6th April 2020

Building brand trust as we navigate the New Normal

Although PR and marketing professionals are protected from the daunting frontline challenges being faced by healthcare and other key workers, many have experienced a huge upsurge in work in the past couple of weeks. For many businesses, a new financial year has just begun with revenue targets that have had to be completely re-forecast and marketing budgets hastily revised while we’ve been reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Marketers have had to abandon many of their best laid plans and adapt to meeting new business needs in the rapidly evolving world around them – one in which events have been cancelled, the news agenda has changed beyond all recognition and a plethora of celebrity influencers are reaching new audiences by beaming into living rooms around the world to support home schooling.

Although, understandably, many organisations instigated a hiatus in their marketing activities – a pause for breath to re-evaluate and devise new strategies – the audience demand for strong communication has actually grown. Around 90% of people expect brands to keep them fully informed of how they are now operating during the COVID-19 crisis.

Events may have been postponed, cancelled or transferred to a virtual format, but marketing professionals are reallocating budgets into PR and other types of comms that are more appropriate to these times.

There’s a thirst for content – employees are craving security and guidance, customers are wanting to ensure continued service and journalists are seeking fresh expert perspective to fill columns and airtime. People are turning more to tried and trusted sources of information, with 45% preferring traditional media outlets. In particular, the increase in home working has seen a rise in online media consumption with 95% spending more time on this and two in three of us watching more news.

Hitting the right note with communications in the current climate is critical. Customers are demanding that brands act and communicate differently – and they’re putting their money where their mouth is. 1 in 4 people in the UK have already started buying from a new brand because of the innovative or compassionate way it has responded to the crisis, while nearly two thirds (65%) say how businesses respond to the pandemic will have a ‘huge impact’ on their likelihood to buy their products.

With the government stepping up the fight against fake news, trusted sources of information are more important than ever. In fact, 97% of decision makers place higher emphasis on the trustworthiness of the source than they did previously – up from 78% in 2018. The good news for businesses is that trust in brand-originated content has also risen to 90%, with 95% expressing a preference for credible content from industry experts and influencers, and 60% wanting to see more insight from thought leaders.

People are seeking credible, trustworthy communication from brands, advice-led content that solves, not sells. Interestingly, a brand’s technical expert is more trusted as a credible spokesperson (48%) than a CEO (45%) right now – a clear directive for businesses seeking to engage effectively with their audiences. At a time of great uncertainty, people are hungry for facts – two thirds want to see more data and research to support brand messages.

There remains a clear opportunity for brands to keep themselves front of mind by providing the expert guidance that their audiences are currently looking for. Marketers would do well to follow the advice Churchill once penned: ‘give them what they want’. Listening and responding to your audiences’ needs will stand your business in good stead to weather the current storm and look ahead to a positive future.