In addition to growing concerns about supply chain disruptions and uncertainty of workforce protocol, brands and retailers must consider the consumer. Is it possible to deliver sincere messaging and connect with consumers in a time of uncertainty and disruption without selling a product?
Stores are continuing to close across the globe, though because of social media and online outlets, companies are able to remain in close communication with consumers everywhere. However, as brands navigate actions carefully predictions show media and advertising will also see less spending from brands.
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Lynn Tesoro, cofounder and chief executive officer of HL Group told WWD that messaging, at this time, might not be about quantity or frequency but rather responsibility and sensitivity. “As we’re all working from home, people need a distraction and we’ve found that fashion media is taking that need seriously while being self-aware and supportive of those impacted by the pandemic,” said Tesoro. “Messaging needs to be authentic.”
Concurrently, Jill McDermott and Sara Andréasson, cofounders of Michele Marie PR said consumers want to hear how brands and businesses are helping the local community and note that consumers read through media stories. “Consumers need some relief from the emotional exhaustion of the coronavirus,” said McDermott. “We are really appreciating some light-hearted readings from our favorite media sites like Refinery29, Coveteur, Who What Wear, Popsugar, Buzzfeed, and others.”
According to Jennifer Wentzo, founder and ceo at Coded PR, and Kate Walters, executive vice president and partner at Coded PR, it is important now more than ever to tell other stories not pertaining to the Coronavirus as well.
“There is an appetite for stories that will not only give us a break from the relentless news cycle but inspire hopefulness and that elusive sense of contentment we used to take for granted,” said Wentzo and Walters. “Touching stories of the heroes among us, guidance from a top executive on inventory management solutions during mandatory shutdowns, or creative ideas for how to make your home workspace an efficient, pleasant environment are just a few examples. We all have a need to relate to others, and the media has the power to help connect us.”
Further, McDermott noted that at Michele Marie PR, they “are helping brands to communicate compassionately and personally. Brands want to do their part to help victims and the community. Now, more than ever, is the time to communicate authentically with consumers.”
In fact, on Friday a highlight on social media came from a twitter exchange in which Christian Siriano reached out to Andrew Cuomo to volunteer resources. The tweet read, “If @NYGovCuomo says we need masks my team will help make some. I have a full sewing team on staff working from home that can help.” The Governor’s account replied just four hours later letting the public know they were in contact with Siriano’s team.
The post quickly saw thousands of retweets and posts on Instagram from fans and editors.
“Sincerity and authenticity are critical,” said Tesoro. “We’ve been saying this for years, but consumers today have a strong ability to filter out opportunistic activity. It is not in a brand’s best interest to work to expand its audience but should focus on reaffirming the company’s values to its most loyal consumers. Right now, people are looking to digital and social media as an escape and we’re seeing engagement spiking through these channels.”
Still, it is vital that brands are measured in messaging.
“Most of our clients have a very engaged audience and are primarily connecting through social media. Messaging around coronavirus needs to be delicate — no one wants to capitalize on a horrific virus,” said Andréasson. “They are choosing what is authentic to them in order to help, whether that be giving a percentage back to charity, offering deep discounts or offering incentives, and some are even donating extra products directly to people in need.”
Wentzo and Walters advise that brands question what really matters and to whom to determine the new baseline. “It is not just about demographics anymore,” said Wentzo and Walters. “We have embraced the digital age, but this pandemic has dropped all of us at the center of it.”
For many businesses, a large part of the turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic is the delay or possible cancellations of festivals and events.
Coded PR, whose clients typically look to festival season as a big moment to generate visibility, pivoted its annual festival gifting suite which typically hosts influencers, stylists, and VIPs in an L.A. showroom to instead host virtual appointments. The goal is to continue to meet client goals and initiatives.
“With so many businesses in turmoil and being affected by the coronavirus pandemic, we felt like it was important to maintain a sense of optimism, forward-thinking and normalcy, always with the utmost sensitivity,” Wentzo and Walters told WWD. “It has been a morale boost for our amazing team, family of brands and network of influencers, stylists and talent with whom we work because it underscores a sense of community.”
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