Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, communication has been key. Governments and businesses have sought to manage people’s expectations and reassure their customer base. Whilst some corporations have succeeded and earned the trust and respect of their followers, others have faltered, damaging their reputation and customer confidence going forward.
As the UK adapts to the current climate, and advice and guidance continues to change on a near daily basis, incorporating careful and considered communication strategy into your ongoing marketing activity has never been more important. Customers will undoubtedly have questions and worries; which you should seek to alleviate and answer across various online platforms.
There are a number of businesses that have shone during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two months, many businesses, large and small, have embraced digital to aid their customer communication and deliver messages that inform, educate and entertain. With proper forethought, businesses can take a proactive approach and use their communication efforts to stand out from the crowd.
We have seen a number of examples from business, including some of our own clients, who have adapted brilliantly to support their colleagues, customers and local community. They have kept them all informed and reassured with clear communications across digital channels.
Palmers Brewery in Bridport were forced to shut their 53 pubs and pause brewing for the first time in their 226 year history.
Their initial response from Chairman and Managing Director John Palmer was generous and thoughtful. As well as not charging their tenants any rent in April, salary sacrifices made by the board. It is clear that the long term future of the business was being put first.
Crucially, unlike a number of their competitors, the business already had an online store in operation. Palmers Wine Store enabled them to continue trading to some extent whilst their pubs are closed. So although their thirsty customers couldn’t enjoy the social interaction of a drink in the pub at least beer, wine and spirits from Palmers could be home delivered.
In support of health care workers the business then made numerous donations to the local community. They donated £1 from every bottle of HIX ale sold in West Dorset through Palmers Wine Store to Bridport Community Hospital and added another £1000.
They also donated 240 bottles of lemonade and ginger beer to staff at Dorset County Hospital.
In May, as social distancing measures were relaxing in England, we were delighted to be able to support Palmers Brewery with a project to help promote their pubs which are offering takeaway orders. These changes to their website involved no development as the site was flexible enough to be able to include this new content.
Another industry which has been badly impacted by Covid-19 is holiday parks and campsites. Whilst the enforced break from welcoming customers to the parks has been frustrating to say the least for park owners, this period has quickly shown which business have an engaged and loyal audience on social channels and as email subscribers.
One of our clients, Concierge Camping in West Sussex, acted early to encourage guests to postpone their holidays by offering an extra 10% on the value of their bookings. They announced this as part as a message from the park owners.
During a crisis we think it’s right that business owners put out messages from themselves. This makes customers see that these businesses are run by regular people. It is also reassuring knowing they are booking with a company owner who is prepared to address their customers directly.
Sharing video and images from provided some great content for parks to show their customers what had been happening and how they were maintaining the sites ready for when customers are allowed to return. This video from Skelwith Fold Caravan Park in The Lake District made great use of drone footage and reinforced positive messages of looking forward to welcoming guests back in the future. In our opinion maybe the soundtrack could have been improved though!
Dave Cumber Vets
Dave Cumber Vets has had to change their entire offering in response to COVID-19. To communicate these changes, Dave Cumber, the vet’s Clinical Director, took to Facebook to outline the vets operating practice under the newly imposed restrictions. In the short, pre-recorded video, Dave acknowledged the difficulties his team were facing and the increased measures they were having to take, to ensure the safety of staff and customers. He also explained the types of medical conditions the vets would be treating going forward and the reasons why these changes were necessary. Dave’s considered and sincere message also included an appeal to customers to think whether they required veterinary services alongside directions on how they should contact the vets should they need assistance.
The video had an overwhelmingly positive reaction on social media, which included an outpouring of well wishes and thanks. This extremely personal approach is an excellent example of how a relatively simple piece of communication can manage customers’ expectations and convey up to date guidance in a friendly and approachable manner.
When the lockdown began many businesses paused much of their digital advertising and regular marketing activity. Because of this the advertising space became very quiet very quickly.
Rather than completely pulling budgets we advised most of out clients to keep some campaigns live as maintaining a presence is important. It ensured that these businesses would stay competitive when life returns to normal and also keeps them at the forefront of consumers’ minds.
We are now working with a number of clients on some Facebook Advertising campaigns which are performing very well. Cost per clicks are currently cheaper than we have seen in many years and engagement through comments and likes are also well above usual rates.
There is also an opportunity with Google advertising. They are going to be opening up its paid shopping ads for free. This is already live in the US and should be available in the UK soon. There has also been a major algorithm update by Google to their search result listings. It is worth checking your search results to see if there have been any significant movement, up or down, for your keywords over the past month.