We are in a reinvention stage and the answers to smart brand behaviours as part of that lie in listening. To your teams. To your customers. And to some extent from a PR perspective, to the media.

For this is not the time to communicate less, but to communicate more of the right things.

People are looking hard for solutions to challenges and useful and generous content to engage with. Especially if Ad creatives need pausing as not right for the time, if direct mail offers are off key, and social calendars showing great outdoor lives or get togethers need rethinking

From our perspective, live storytelling is centre stage and cast against four key priorities:

• Aligning with the current media appetite

• Thinking about relationships of value

• Paying it forward

• Working the social media therapy channels

The media appetite

Magazine journalists are still working on future issues on their usual 2-3 month ahead deadline, so ‘news’ for them is not being switched off.

Media in general are of course now multimedia brands, so there is room for strong editorial themed digital content to land on their digital sites, as long as is tailored for the current world.

Many are refocusing on refreshed relevance: ‘Time Out’ has become ‘Time In’. CN Traveller is focusing on how to explore the world from home through food, through travel movies and through home pampering. It’s time to think laterally.

And with positivity. It may seem like we are one topic nation at the moment, but national media tell us they are looking for sparks of positivity and stories that inspire others, that show how the mechanics of businesses are changing to match consumer wants and needs, that are clever in the way brands are reacting, or that are working to deliver a call to action or unify the at home nation.

As with all purpose and cause work, it is totally permissible to share the good work done as long as it comes from the right place, is designed to make an actual difference and ideally allows consumers to play their own part in any initiative

Thinking relationships

Customers are pretty future focused and need reassurance from those they trust and like on every level in life. And they will remember things, especially whatever will help them break the monotony of lockdown. So whilst short time sales priorities might be what’s-on-the-shelf dependent, this is a strong time to move from product storytelling to bringing the brand to life for the long term, beyond obvious commercial reasons, to show you both understand and care about your audience.

On the bigger scale this is Joe Wicks and his morning TV workouts. Or influencer and chef Jack Monroe’s Lock Down larder daily social media advice. As a brand, Brewdog’s virtual bar network is a strong example of reading the community need and feeding it in line with its brand values to make people smile.

Pay it Forward

Purpose driven comms was already the mantra for the year, in the decade of delivery that we are in, before the isolation period took over, and if you are selling well and ahead of the curve, think more than ever how your success can benefit more people. How can customers buying your products pay that forward? How can your success, partnered with consumer empowerment, benefit the elderly neighbours, the key workers, the self-isolating, or the smaller business in trouble?

Consumers are looking for how they can contribute more, from the small but life affirming clap for the NHS call outs,  through to the knowledge that what you buy will unlock something good for others.

Budweiser’s ‘Save Pub Life’ campaign is encouraging customers to buy a pub gift card now for future beer drinking, but where all the money earned will go the pubs which are shut right now, with Bud match funding all the money spent.  Asda’s £5M donation to food waste charity Fareshare is an important message to other brands that pulling back on sharing surplus foods to meet retail demand instead will cause significant impact on the most needy. And TUI’s redirection of its cabin crews to join the St John’s Ambulance volunteering programme is strong left field thinking.

Social media therapy

With front doors to the world shut, interaction with and reliance on digital channels to break the boredom are on the increase. More time to fill (for influencers, for brands who aren’t advertising, and for consumers), more positivity sought, more content to share.

It requires some retooling to include a solution led pillar in your strategy, and within that it is entirely permissible to balance important messages around health, taste and inspiration with humour, joy and fun. We need that. News channels are seeing record viewing figures for the important stuff, and it’s where to go to separate facts from rumour and scaremongering. But Social is the escape room, the chance to have fresher dialogue, and the chance to find things to ‘do’ beyond the boxset.

See Innocent’s and Oatly’s empathic humour on their insta channels for example, Yeo Valley’s blend of cooking Q&As, recipes and at home, or Pret’s Sandwich Seminars. . Whilst TikTok as a channel hosted a week of influencer livestreams called #HappyAtHome, featuring popular TikTok creators giving motivational talks, dance lessons, and other quarantine content every night.

It would be wrong to call this a time of opportunity, but is a time to be clever and add new levels of value that come from business hearts and minds coming to the fore, and perhaps delivering a longer term shift in positive relationships with stakeholders