Communication in the age of #COVID-19

Sandra Pekić

The world is already adjusting to the pandemic life — companies are designing new products in line with changing consumer habits, and communication is predominantly moving to online platforms. What makes companies that will come out as winners from this situation stand out is regular, quick, and effective communication with everyone involved in their business.

The importance of knowing crisis communication and its appropriate implementation is undoubtedly coming to the forefront, says Novaston’s Corporate Communications Director Aleksandra Kožul, using our company as an example.

“When crisis hits, we have to be already prepared to respond immediately to issues and challenges. Already at the early signs, our company formed a crisis team and introduced clear lines of communication within the crisis communication plan, both internal and external. The goal was to send a clear message to both employees and clients, as well as to help them navigate the sea of misinformation. While staying calm and rational, we quickly made decisions rooted solely in verified information, viewed from multiple perspectives. Only by adhering to all the predetermined steps will the results be positive, and we can come out from the crisis with little or no consequence,” explains Aleksandra Kožul.

Business continuity is imperative for any company, and proactive communication allows us to regroup and prepare for the post-corona age.

Consequently, not only business but also communication is adapting faster than “under normal conditions.” Meetings are held via video conferencing, and announcements are shared through social media. In a sea of choices, the platforms that prevail are those that allow more participants, ease of use, and data security: Zoom is a favorite for business communication; Skype is experiencing a new golden age; people are getting more active on Facebook... Group calls are also used for personal needs to help handle social distancing, which is why nearly every cell phone has Viber or WhatsApp installed.

At the regional level, consumption of online news outlets has grown by half, accompanied by an unexpected shift back to electronic media — particularly television (a staggering 82% according to an IPSOS survey). Furthermore, the popularity of e-books and the decline in print media sales are threatening the future of the publishing industry. The first ten days after the pandemic was declared, the most sought information was that about coronavirus. Soon, the attention shifted towards lighter subjects — film and entertainment programming, sports networks and TV classes for school children.

People are most definitely going back to some slightly neglected values, turning terms like empathy, solidarity, encouragement into keywords.

Companies in Serbia quickly centered their PR strategies around corporate social responsibility. In order to become or remain a trusted partner, it is important what we do, as well as what messages we send right now. That is why we are monitoring community views and response to particular issues, and social media are becoming the main channels for exchanging opinions, finding the right information, and organizing assistance. In addition, there have never been more free online learning courses. Apart from expert topics in specific industries, company websites are making room for posts about spending free time, disinfecting and protecting spaces, keeping fit in isolation, motivating kids... And all this in at least one other language — English.

It is still too early to fully anticipate all the global changes after the pandemic, but bright future certainly awaits those that recognize and understand them and then develop creative business plans in the new normal.

ADVERTISING: CONTENT AND PURPOSE TAKE THE LEAD

In this age of communications games, as media experts call it, advertising will not stop. On the contrary, it will only adapt to changes in the market. According to research, most consumers want to hear about how useful brands are and how they help the community, which means that the triumphant industries are those that responded with creative ads encouraging people to stay home and healthy. For now, the pharmaceutical industry, producers and sellers of disinfectants, and parts of retail are booming. Of course, so are those that can quickly move their product and service offerings to e-commerce.

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