Reflections: A Look Back at the Communications Lessons Learned in 2020

Reflecting back on 2020, everyone can agree there were a significant amount of highs and lows as well as many lessons learned. From a communications and PR perspective, there are quite a few takeaways. Here are three to keep in mind as we move in 2021.

 

Crisis communications preparedness is critical

Whether it was a restaurant that had an employee test positive for COVID-19, a company that struggled to pivot with the mandatory shutdowns, an executive that responded negatively to the BLM movement, the list can truly go on for an entire blog post. Crisis communication was the name of the game in 2020 and it was extremely noticeable which brands had a plan in place and which did not.

Let’s take the pandemic as an example. When fear was spreading rapidly at the beginning, employees looked to their executive teams on how the company would handle the safety of the workforce. Leaders that took too long to respond were harming their company’s reputation. The brands that were able to gather the crisis communications team quickly, develop a proper plan and response, and notify employees shined.

While it’s not likely a crisis communications plan could’ve predicted a global pandemic, having templates and a process in place to respond quickly to any crisis is the key. Companies can use this plan to react and communicate quickly, both internally and externally. If there’s one takeaway that hopefully every brand has learned by now, it is that preparedness and having a crisis plan is non-negotiable.

 

Purpose-driven work is the new CSR initiative

It’s no secret that a brand must be more than the products or services it sells. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been around for years but we saw it drastically shift in 2020. Previously, a lot of CSR efforts focused on the environment, climate control and giving back to non-profits. While those are all still extremely important initiatives, 2020 brought about the need for purpose-driven work.

What does your brand truly stand for? How are you helping the community? How are you ensuring that all employees feel included and welcomed? What is your company doing to promote diversity and inclusion inside and outside of the organization? These are all critical questions that executives simply can no longer ignore.

Consumers want to buy from brands that they believe in, particularly Generation Zers. This next generation of buyers are loyal to brands that reflect their values and transparency and authenticity reign supreme. While some may be hesitant to take a stand or be vocal on a particular issue, those that do will experience significant brand loyalty and build trust amongst consumers.

 

Two-way communication with the customer is paramount

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – customers do not want to be only sold and talked to. They want to talk with a brand, engage with it and know that the brand cares about them beyond what they buy. Two-way communication is paramount, and 2020 was the prime example of this. With feelings of isolation and loneliness during the lockdowns, consumers were craving connections of any kind, even if it came from a brand.

Enter the beauty of social media! Whether it’s starting a new TikTok dance, addressing a customer’s complaints in a timely manner (and truly listening to the complaint to make a change) or opening up a dialog on how the brand is pivoting in response to the social unrest, conversations and connections between brands and consumers were at an all time high.

As we enter 2021, know that it’s not going to slow down at all. Rather, social media engagement (not just posting) must be a critical component of a brand’s online strategy. Consider it an opportunity to gain data and insights directly from your target audience online by opening up forums and conversations. By listening and engaging with the customer, brands can create stronger connections that will enhance the overall reputation in the marketplace.

One theme sticks out throughout these lessons: it’s important to remember the individual person. Regardless of inside or outside of a brand, everyone wants to feel they are heard, cared for and that they matter. Tell us – how is your brand connecting with the individual person and taking this into account in 2021?

If you’re interested in learning more about The Power Group’s offerings for crisis communications, community management or other services, please reach out to kortni@thepowergroup.com.