Marketing in the new normal: all change

Marketing in the new normal: all change

Marketing in the new normal: all change

In the second of our two articles on marketing in the ‘new normal’ – you can read the first here – we share how marketing is changing and what your organisation needs to do to adapt.

In many ways covid-19 has accelerated many of the changes the world was already facing – the growth of digital communications, more flexible working from home and issues around climate change. All of these impact on marketing and how you reach your customers, visitors, partners and donors. Many of the traditional marketing channels that organisations have relied on, for in some cases hundreds of years, will die out as a result of this global pandemic.

Paper cuts

Flyers are sure to be a casualty of our times. Not only is it more environmentally friendly to stop using flyers, there are also hygiene reasons to change this marketing practise. Reducing the number of things people need to touch when out and about – and even the amount of ‘things’ being brought into people’s homes – is a no brainer with a global pandemic. Added to that fewer people are going to places where they might have ordinarily picked up a flyer. Deciding to stop using flyers could also be a great good news story to share about your organisation.

Face mask to face mask marketing

Many businesses rely on face to face marketing at events, conferences and exhibitions throughout the year. Of course, the global pandemic has put an end to most of these for now but they will be back. In the meantime, why not investigate ‘covid secure’ ways of meeting your customers face to face? If you have a shop or hospitality venue you will no doubt have implemented ways to keep welcoming customers in a safe way. If your organisation does not have regular outlets for meeting customers, look at those who do and see what you could learn. Have a look for face to face marketing opportunities which take place outside and allow for lots of social distancing. Many outdoor autumn events like pumpkin picking will still be going ahead – could your business get involved in some way?

Online and on point

As our post at the beginning of lockdown said “This is a great time to invest in your online communities.” And as we said in part one of this series. Now is not the time to abandon the community and following you have built. These channels are set to keep growing and becoming more important. Make sure you don’t miss out.

Think carefully about how you will replace the marketing channels you can’t currently use, either temporarily or for the long term. And make sure you’re thinking about what channels you can make use of instead.

To make an informed decision you need some good data. As with any marketing decision, you need to know your ‘customer profile’. Really get to know your customers:

  • who are they?
  • why are they your customer?
  • how long have they been your customer?
  • what other brands/ organisations do they like/ support?

Dig right into this data to inform your marketing choices. If you need support with this, our team can help. We can even help you devise your new marketing strategy for 2020 and beyond.

What is your favourite marketing channel? What does your organisation find most successful?

2 + 12 =

Marketing in the new normal: Staying on track

Marketing in the new normal: Staying on track

Marketing in the new normal: Staying on track.

Surely one of the most annoying phrases to come out of the global pandemic has been the “new normal” and yet it is probably the best way to describe the situation. There are so many changes which would have been almost unimaginable in January. We’re all adjusting – who hasn’t forgotten their face mask and hand sanitiser at some point? Businesses, charities and other organisations are no different. How do you continue your marketing in such “unprecedented” (another fantastic coronavirus phrase) times? In the first of two articles, we share how to keep your organisation’s marketing on track at this time.

Don’t abandon your online community

If you read our post towards the beginning of lockdown on how to continue marketing during coronavirus pandemicyou will have seen that staying online was of vital importance. As more places begin to open up and life gets back to the familiar patterns of busy-ness it can be tempting to spend less time cultivating your online community but as with growing anything, you only get out what you put in. The less content you produce, the fewer people will see it and engage with it then the various social media channel algorithms will mean what you do produce is shown to even fewer people which means less interaction and so this vicious cycle continues. If you know that you won’t have time to dedicate to your online presence, make sure you delegate it to someone else in your organisation or outside of it, for example we devise, create and manage social media for a number of clients. We can also keep your website up to date with news as well as the behind the scenes updates too.

Don’t forget those who are still shielding

Keeping your online community alive is also vital for those customers who are still shielding or anxious about going out. Although the government says shielding has finished this is not always the case – especially for those on immune suppressants, receiving cancer treatment or with long term health conditions. As autumn turns to winter, we can expect more people to go back to shielding. Don’t forget these customers – they still want to buy, give and engage with the organisations and brands they love.

Let visitors know what to expect

Look at reopening your site(s) as an opportunity to talk about the new things that are happening, mention the innovations your organisation is leading, along with all the things your customers already love about what you do. Social media and your website are great places to let your stakeholders know what they can expect when they visit. You will already have new procedures in place for social distancing and staying ‘covid-19 secure’; make sure your visitors know this. For example, will visitors be able to use toilets? Is there a one-way system in place? What about track and trace? The more information you can give people the more confident they will feel about visiting. A frequently asked questions section on your website is a great place for all this information. Providing an email address or telephone number for any questions is also a good idea – providing they will be answered in a timely manner.

Expect the unexpected

These are uncertain times and we have to expect a fluctuation in restrictions. Given the government’s recent announcements about additional restrictions lasting at least the next six months, it’s a good idea to be prepared for further localised lockdowns and changes to daily life. Spend time planning how your business will deal with changes. Then when required, make sure you let your customers know what you are doing and what to expect. For example, if you are a small café now facing having to take orders at tables instead of counter service let your customers know how you will be doing this: remind them that tables will still socially distanced and that they need to wear a face mask upon entry until seated. Then once seated a colleague, wearing a face mask, will come to them to take their details for track and trace plus their order which will be delivered to them once ready etc. Or if you have an app for customers to use explain where to download it from and how to use it. ‘Explainer’ videos can be great for this. If you need support with creating video or any other content, we can help.

How has your marketing changed in the last six months? What plans have you got for your marketing in the next six months?

11 + 3 =

We are one!

We are one!

We are one!

Today, We Are Comma turns one! What a year it has been; great highs and occasional disappointments. Starting a business is never easy but add in a global pandemic and there have been a number of challenges to overcome. We have learnt a lot in the last 12 months. So, we thought we would have a look back and share our experience.

Seek advice

When we started We Are Comma, we knew we had ample skills and experience to provide services which other organisations needed. We have a combined more than 30 years working in marketing, design, public relations and communications. So, in many ways we were ahead of many other businesses when they start. But there is more to running a business than simply being a good professional in your field. Very quickly we had to learn how to run a business. As employees, we had whole teams specialising in business administration to rely on; we didn’t need to know about the invoicing procedure or debt collection. Previously, when our team expanded HR colleagues provided advice on finding and hiring the best candidates etc. Suddenly, all these ‘back office’ services and systems were gone and we had to figure it out for ourselves. One of our first lessons was to ask other professionals for advice. Within our first week, we met with our accountant – who was recommended to us which is always the best way to find anyone to provide a service. Our accountant is experienced, knowledgeable and – importantly for us – very patient. He has spent a long time answering our questions about the best way to structure our business, what processes and procedures we need to have in place and so on. And to manage the day to day business admin, we each took responsibility for the various ‘back office’ functions.

Choose clients carefully

When you start a business there is a temptation to grab whatever work you can; anything to have some money coming in. Obviously having money coming in is very important but so is working with the right organisations. Our experience has been that the jobs which we thought would be a quick buck are not always so. More important is to work with clients that value your work and share a similar ethos to you. We work with organisations and businesses that change lives and drive social good. We help them influence more people to bring about more good in the world. However, we have also learnt another lesson through this: beware of getting carried away. As the purpose of the organisations we work for resonates with us, we can easily find ourselves doing lots of additional work as a good will gesture. But we do have to remember that there are only so many hours in the day. And our time is much more precious now that we are wearing so many hats.

Work life balance

From the start we all said we wanted to use the opportunity to start our own business to also ensure we have the work life balance that we want. We had great visions of being able to take every Friday afternoon off to pick the kids up from school and take them out for a treat or be able to meet friends for drinks etc. The reality is very different. Yes, we have more flexibility which given the Covid-19 pandemic has been greatly needed but actually we more often have to try and be strict with ourselves so that we are not working more than we did before. When you are building a business, it’s easy to think “just another hour on this” or find yourself spending the weekends trying to manage your own marketing because during the week you’re managing client’s marketing. But this has been another benefit of working as a collective – we can support each other but also challenge one another, if we notice any one of us seems to have got their work life balance off kilter.

That’s our top three lessons from starting We Are Comma. If you’ve started your own business what lessons did you learn? If you’d like to start your own business what do you think would be the biggest challenge?

6 + 2 =

How to continue marketing during coronavirus pandemic

How to continue marketing during coronavirus pandemic

How to continue marketing during coronavirus pandemic

The lock down has affected all our lives. Many businesses and charities are worried about the viability of their future. It can be tempting to just try and ‘hunker down’ until all this blows over but that will simply make things worse. This is the time to stay in the forefront of customers, funders and commissioners’ minds. But how do you do this when you might not be able to be in your usual workplace, with clients and products or services etc. Here’s We are Comma’s five top tips to marketing through the coronavirus pandemic. The lock down has affected all our lives. Many businesses and charities are worried about the viability of their future. It can be tempting to just try and ‘hunker down’ until all this blows over but that will simply make things worse. This is the time to stay in the forefront of customers, funders and commissioners’ minds. But how do you do this when you might not be able to be in your usual workplace, with clients and products or services etc. Here’s We are Comma’s five top tips to marketing through the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Look for new opportunities

Yes, everything is different but instead of thinking of that in negative terms, why not look for new opportunities? Some museums have been promoting their online offering to help with home-schooling. Local libraries – such as one of our clients Blackfen Community Library – have moved their usual activities online. Blackfen Community Library is continuing its rhyme time sessions online through YouTube and social media. The BBC have reported that some businesses have been crowdfunding to help them survive.

2. Try something new

Once you have identified new opportunities, try something new. Of course, it is important to make sure anything you do fits with your brand but don’t miss this opportunity to give something new a try. Concerns around those living with domestic abuse have been high during lockdown, indeed, just a week or so into being asked to stay at home Refuge said they had received a 25% increase in calls and online contact. In an inspired piece of marketing, Refuge has been promoting donations by asking people to ‘buy a gift’ for a woman (and/or child(ren)) escaping domestic abuse. These gifts are in the style of a ‘buy a donkey’ gift from Oxfam. Using online advertising has meant the charity is able to target promotion to those who have shown sympathy to this issue through their online activities. The BBC has recently reported on a new campaign to help charities plug an expected £4bn income shortfall after organised fundraising sports events such as the London Marathon have been cancelled. The 2.6 Challenge inspires people to create their own athletic activities based around the numbers 2.6 or 26 and donate money.

 

An example of a social media campaign post from Refuge during the Covid-19 pandemic .

3. Stay online

This is a great time to invest in your online communities. This is not just about putting out more and more content but really engaging with your audiences online. Dig into your social media analytics, find out more about your typical and ideal customer. Enjoy geeking out!  Make sure you’re part of Facebook groups and get involved. Follow relevant influencers on Instagram or LinkedIn then make sure you comment and share interesting ideas. And don’t overthink it. Just get online and get connecting. Even what could have been a disaster is working out well online at the moment, as the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma, US, has shown when their head of security took over the twitter feed after the museum had to close due to Covid-19.

4. Make sure your Business Continuity Plan is up to date

Hopefully you already have a business continuity plan in place. If you don’t, check out our post on what a business continuity plan is and how to write one. You’ll also find tips on making sure it is up to date and you have plans in place in case Covid-19 affects your organisation directly through illness or even sadly death.

5. Keep in touch

Whatever you do during lock down, keep in touch with your customers, with your partners, with those who fund you and those who commission you. Make sure they know what you’re up to and what your plans are for the future etc. Don’t be afraid to shout about the good things you’re doing. People want – and need – to hear positive news at the moment. One of our clients – Valicity Care Services – shared the ways they are supporting their local communities during this pandemic. Write blog posts, keep your social media up to date and send email newsletters. Just make sure when all this is over, your audiences know you are still operating and what to work with them.

 

What new ways of marketing have you boldly tried recently? What rewards have you reaped?

Use the form below to get in touch, leave a comment or email us at .

13 + 6 =

Is your business ready for the coronavirus?

Is your business ready for the coronavirus?

Is your business ready for the coronavirus?

The UK, and the world as a whole, is facing an unprecedent situation. Governments, healthcare professionals and scientists are still trying to figure out how to tackle Covid-19 and deal with its after affects. So it’s no surprise that many businesses are unsure of how to handle the situation. But there are ways to protect your business reputation during this time.

Hopefully you already have a business continuity plan in place. If you don’t, there are lots of places online which can provide a template for you to use. Some useful links and organisations are:

UK Government
The Business Continuity Institute (BCI)

Lots of local authorities also provide support for businesses around business continuity plans and templates. Manchester City Council has a good template, for example.

Business continuity plans often differ and there are various elements they may contain however some of the most important parts are:

  • Risk matrix: this helps a business see what scenarios could take place and then consider the likelihood. This then helps a business make sure they focus preparations on the most likely situations the business could face.
  • Potential scenarios: each business needs to take time with senior managers to brainstorm worst case scenarios, difficult scenarios and then less impactful issues which will affect business effectiveness but not require a shut down etc. These should then be RAG- rated. Though the BBC uses Gold, Silver and Bronze. The BBC has a great toolkit available here. This is where you need to add in the potential affects of coronavirus on your business. How will it affect your staff and customers? How will it affect the ability of your business to function?
  • Contact list: a vital part of your Business continuity plan is contact numbers. In an emergency everyone in leadership or vital roles need to be contactable. You should have your Business continuity plan team in place and they should all have their contact details on the form. Other organisations in your supply chain or partners you regularly work with are also useful to have on this list.
  • Checklist: This takes the person coordinating any event which interrupts business continuity through a list of things they need to do from building evacuation, calling emergency services, briefing staff etc depending on the situation. The checklist should be generic enough to be suitable for any emergency.
  • Activity log: This is vital, every detail of your business response must be recorded here. This document is vital and can be considered a legal document.
  • Evaluation and return to normal business: Once an emergency is over, your business needs to have a phased response to how the organisation returns to normal and then how the situation is evaluated to allow the business to avoid risk in future and/or better respond to emergencies.

Once you have created your business continuity plan make sure it is saved in multiple places in case of system failure. In addition, a hard copy needs to be available at every site your organisation operates from. Key members of staff need to know where it is so they can grab it in time of emergency. It’s also worth having other items like pen, pencil, spare mobile phone, torch and anything else you think you might need with it. These can be stored in a box file or bag.

Testing your Business continuity plan is vital. Tests can be run on desktops, talking through scenarios and response. It is ideal to have a real-time test scenario which involves all levels of staff at least once a year. Again, from these learnings the Business continuity plan should be updated. Your plan should be reviewed and updated at least once a year too.

The next step is to plan your communications. In an emergency situation you don’t want to be worrying about drafting statements to give to the media or other interested parties. Of course, emergency situations are fast moving and statements will need to change but you can certainly draft some statements, especially initial ones while you are establishing the facts of the situation, in advance. This helps put you on the front foot.

It is also useful to make sure you have someone who is responsible for the communications with different audiences – staff, customers, media, suppliers etc. This takes pressure off of the situation coordinator but the communications person should be working closely with them and the management team to make sure the right messages are getting out at the right time. If you don’t have someone you can trust to manage your business reputation, then make sure you know where to turn in a crisis. Even better, have support in place before you need it. Comma can give your business continuity plan a critical friend review and help with drafting your initial statements. We can also provide comms and media support in times of crisis, even setting up a temporary, mobile press office for your business if required.

Are you confident your business can weather any storm it faces? Do you have plans in place for dealing any negative effects of coronavirus?

Use the form below to get in touch, leave a comment or email us at .

12 + 13 =

Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading

Following on from my post last week on podcasts, I thought I would share some other resources and blogs which I find interesting and useful for my career.

Fact check and Full fact
In this time of ‘fake news’ it is so important that being able to check what’s being reported.

CIPR
A must for all PR professionals.

Behavioural insights team blog
So many interesting articles around the ‘nudge’ theory and much more.

PR moment
Another must for PR professionals. I love the good PR/bad PR stories

Harvard Business Review
Lots of great articles on business, marketing and comms. Recently read this article which is a really clear explanation of the difference of vision, mission and values and purpose.

Business Insider
Lots of interesting articles on business and life generally.

Thrive
Interesting articles on work, well-being and more.

What am I missing? What are your favourites?

 

Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash