The Times They Are A Changin’
Today’s episode I’ve called, “For The Times They Are A-Changin’”. And Bob is still right – because by goodness, aren’t they just. I can quite confidently tell you that before the beginning of 2020, “unprecedented” was not a word I would have considered, let alone relied on in conversational situations. Yet here I am, repeatedly standing in the well-spaced supermarket entry queues throwing it around like it was the newest, semi-shouted version of The Weather Chat Between Strangers.
Regardless of where we are, we all rely on a safe and common language. Weather. Sport. Unprecedented. Which got me thinking. Before the March 23 lockdown pushed pause on the economy, the world was buying and selling in recognisable, expected ways. We had our common language: Buy, Sell, Improve. Now though? Those familiar, reliable approaches have changed in order to prioritise more customer-centric messages over product- or service-centric comms. With the impact and implications of the lockdown being felt for months, we are at a point where the changes wrought over the past six weeks is likely to become ‘The New Norm’.
The New Norm is a term that has taken root in our vocabulary, although unlike “unprecedented” I’m not quite as resentful of its arrival. There has been a monumental shift in operations for those businesses able to continue running, and for those that have been forced to stop, the question of how to stay in touch has. In fact, the lockdown has been a digital coming of age for our industry with how we communicate internally and externally.
I’m pretty sure I won’t be the only person who is willing to admit that before March of this year I hadn’t heard of Zoom. Sure, most of us will have skyped or facetimed friends and family in far flung areas of the globe and we know it works in a group of 3 or 4. When there’s a conference call of more than 10 at a time, though? That takes some true coordination and I’m quite sure that there is now a career opening for Professional Zoom Leaders. Self-taught magicians who can quickly and easily navigate Breakout Rooms, who have managed to master sharing their music while still being heard, and who can lead a conference of 25 people avoiding the stuttering, spoken-over mess with deft implementation of the mute button. I for one would be grateful of it. A recent family gathering has instilled a deep fear of double-digit attendee zoom call.
And of course, we’re all logging into zoom and google hangouts and Microsoft teams dressed to impress from the waist up because working from has been the only way for many businesses to function. Working remotely is familiar to some but there are still many companies that rely on the traditional bricks-and-mortar dependant as-desk approach to working. I wonder how much of the physical, desk-bound expectance is going to continue, especially since we’ve been paying rent on empty offices for the past six weeks. Hot desking and remote working has proved itself highly effective for freelancers and the self-employed – could it work just as well for others? Is your work considering making the spare room slash least cluttered corner of the living room a permanent office? If the business you’re in is one that depends on a factory or the like then sure, that’s a non-negotiable. I dunno, it at least raises the question, how much of that office rent necessary?
So, we’ve navigated our internal comms with slippers and aplomb, what about externally? The types of social media messaging previously used to hard sell are, quite rightly in this environment, insensitive when the country’s priorities have moved so dramatically.
Aside from the tone, there has been an even more fundamental shift in how we utilise Social Media. Businesses have been forced to acknowledge and utilise social media in ways they weren’t before. It’s not there just as a White Noise generator. It’s not just another platform to replicate the standard to-print marketing approaches. It’s not something to use just because “we probably should be seen to”. Social Media Marketing requires a nuanced, empathetic approach that understands and takes into consideration UX and more than a small understanding of Nudge theory. We only have two or three seconds in which to get our message across in the images and text we choose so those messages must be concise, impactful, sophisticated and supportive.
Our customers are overwhelmed and oversaturated with digital information – how are you going to cut through? You can only do that by knowing your customer – what they want? what is stopping them from getting what they want? what they fear? – and then speak directly to those fears and desires whilst ensuring they feel like the centre of the narrative. These seem like simple questions and yet the answers to them give us the focus and clarity to communicate and market effectively. And now, more than ever, we need to make sure that we have asked these questions. The answers we had before lockdown will undoubtedly have changed and we need to know how they have changed because that means every message we had planned will need to change, too. These questions are part of the Brouha Brand Audit which can be implemented wherever you are, in whatever situation your business is in, and will provide the foundation to everything you choose to do moving forward in whatever the post-COVID landscape looks like.
I cannot see a situation where we go back to the way we were. Our comms, our offices (and I daresay the lower half of our office attire) have all changed in a potentially permanent way. That permanence isn’t necessarily a bad thing and although there are no tealeaves that give us the What Next answers with any precision, what we can do is objectively look at how we have adapted under pressure and apply that to whatever the post-lockdown, post-COVID world of Marketing looks like. What does your New Norm look like? Let Brouha help build your Brouha Brand Audit and we’ll find out together.
Thanks so much for listening in today, if you have any questions or feedback, we’d love to hear from you – you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or, of course, you can @ us on twitter with @brouhamarketing. And so, I shall leave you to the rest of your day and will see you in a couple of weeks for the next episode.