5 ways that PR can help you emerge from the pandemic stronger
There is no denying the cataclysmic effect that Coronavirus is having on UK businesses, the question is; How can we ensure the survival of our businesses through this uncharted terrain?
Despite the initial instinct to cut PR and marketing to stem the flow of expenses out of the business, the real value is in retaining and maximising any budget that you can allocate. Effective PR will be a key component to weathering this storm. Frivolity and frippery have been replaced by value and empathy; any communications strategy now needs to educate, inform, inspire or, provide invaluable escapism.
How can the fashion industry use these developments and navigate success through the pandemic? How can you promote your business confidently and sell comfortably?
Government guidance and all things considered; working safely has to be the number one priority. Beyond that, how do you create a PR strategy that can support you through such an unfamiliar time?
1. Be Relevant and Purposeful:The chances are that some adjustments are needed to your key messaging to ensure that you remain on brand, yet mindful of the global circumstances. By putting the principles of ‘educate, inform and inspire’ as a core focus of your content creation, you will be able to instill purpose in your communication through the pandemic.
You must be even more conscientious about spending time connecting with your audience, whether buyers, stockist, customers, clients, prospects or peripheral followers. Demonstrate empathy as everyone tries to adapt to the shifting environment and go above and beyond wherever possible to deliver extra value through the content you create and the time you share.
Consider how your content enhances the lives of your audience or makes it easier for people to buy from you and for other businesses to work with you. Be open and authentic, as human connection will give your communication infinitely more power than transactional interaction. Paying attention to this aspect of your communications and ensuring that your audience, on every level, feel valued, will retain your audience, engender loyalty and foster goodwill that repay you through and beyond the pandemic.
2. Add Value:Value has always been a critical component of effective PR and communications and is even more so in the current climate. Where can you up level the value you are able to offer both to your audience and customers?’
Consider the parameters of your offering. More and more, people are looking for meaning and connection beyond social media and the digital world. This need has only increased with the current absence of human contact and social interaction. The ‘little things’ mean exponentially more. Accommodating this need will see you solving pain points of your customers. Bespoke written gift cards, beautiful gift wrapping, the option of an alternative delivery address, the addition of personalisation or an unexpected gift with purchase; the list goes on, but as one of the key constants of consumer culture, whatever the price point, fashion can find its place in this pandemic. From necessities and practical purchases to self-gifting, those rewards to self that say ‘you deserve this’ or ‘tough times call for beautiful treats’, people are still buying.
Demonstrate an understanding of your customers, whether trade or consumer, what they want and need, then open your arms to being able to provide solutions where possible. Indulge and nurture any need for comfort, escape and normality and you will be rewarded with loyalty.
3. Strategic Thinking:A pandemic-induced short-term focus should not override long term vision. There are many aspects of retail and business that are currently so far beyond our control, that we need to seize those that are within in. Turning to PR will give you a proactive outlet to create and maintain a positive momentum that will support your business.
PR is not without risks at the moment; when businesses get it wrong, it is noticed. Do not capitalise on tragedy or force a connection between your brand and the pandemic. Profiteering while others suffer will instantly damage credibility, however, empathising and taking a proactive approach to the survival of your business will enhance credibility.
There is nothing normal about the current cycle of content in the media, yet, there are still many avenues for promotion, across the media and beyond.
Telling your story, whether a designer, retailer, stockist, bricks and mortar shop, gives a wonderful opportunity to open up to a wider audience. Open a window into the industry and maintain visibility. The public will support what they see; out of sight, out of mind. The avenues for you to tell your business survival story include business sections of the national news media, regional media, trade publications, online business media, but also social media channels and business networks. Branch beyond the fashion industry to increase your B2B visibility; perhaps look at interviews, case study positioning and online opportunities to provide industry insights with bodies such as the Federation of Small Businesses or Enterprise Nation.
4. Be Flexible:Flexibly accommodating the ever-changing nature of the pandemic is crucial to coming out stronger. In PR terms, you can really explore what resonates with your audience and find a new tone of voice that connects on a deeper, more personal level.
Yes, you want to be strategic but not at the expense of being malleable. Respond to trends, respond to developments, communicate how you are being flexible in areas of the business beyond PR.
5. Collaborate:Collaborate on content. Collaborate on product. Collaborate to get visible; whether with other businesses or influencers. What expertise can you bring together? What businesses are likeminded or share a similar target audience? Leverage the audiences of those around you to raise your profile and build your audience.
Well considered influencer campaigns could also find their place in your PR activity, but that terrain will be rockier. Authenticity must be at the heart of any influencer activity; if there is any danger that it is just PR for PR’s sake, don’t go there. Podcasts, for example, provide a great segue to working with influencers as well as providing consumer visibility via a medium that is thriving. Becoming an interviewee on an influencer’s podcast, such as that of Sarah Akwisombe or Estee LaLonde, provides an authentic way to tell your story and connect with a wider audience.
The scope for promotion is vast if you retain authenticity and value at the heart of your messaging and have the confidence to promote in order to survive. Now is the time to embrace the power of PR; to be your own best cheerleader and to ensure that you emerge strengthened with renewed authenticity, purpose and a loyal, engaged audience.
About the author
Fiona Minett, founder of Boss Your PR, is a PR Expert and Educator on a mission to democratise PR for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Having spent over a decade in PR, including 6 years running a PR agency, Fiona now trains and coaches small businesses in taking a DIY approach to their visibility by making the most of savvy and cost effective PR techniques.