Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic leaves heavy impacts on Vietnam and the world by changing the global situation, the thinking, perception as well as human behavior. For that, this global change demands a shift in the mind of business leaders, businesspeople, and especially of PR and marketing practitioners to gradually adapt to the present.
At the webinar on “Entering the post-pandemic era: New relations with the new public” held by the Vietnam Public Relations Network (VNPR), Dr. Clāra Ly-Le, Managing Director of the marketing communications agency EloQ Communications, presented some ideas for businesses and those who are interested in post-crisis communication.
Even though all business activities are temporarily frozen due to the global disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, for PR agencies or even in-house departments, PR and marketing activities must go on, so we can be steady and ready when the social distancing is lifted. With the end of the pandemic, the public has gradually come back and have more trust in the traditional media; as well as information technology has become an indispensable tool in human life; and brand trust has also changed consumer purchasing behavior.
The return of traditional media
The level of interest and traffic of traditional newspapers skyrocketed during the peak months of Corona pandemic. SimilarWeb statistics shows that the traffic from the New York Times increased to more than double since the beginning of the crisis. The trend is similar for many channels in other countries. A study by Edelman’s Trust Barometer with more than 1,200 people in 12 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia, indicated that people living here choose media channels as a reliable source to update the latest information related to COVID-19. For that, traditional media has reached a new milestone – 69% of credibility of consumers worldwide in the past 5 months. As we can see, concerns about fake news are still a major public issue. Any survey would show that most people worry about the spread of inaccurate information about pandemic; hence, start to read traditional newspaper.
And Vietnam is no exception. Vietnamese traditional media has proved its role in verifying and delivering accurate information. Its authenticity becomes an advantage for newspapers to compete with social media. When fake information spreads on social networks, the public decided to place their trust in reputable news outlets. News websites in Vietnam witnessed significant increase in their traffic during the crisis peak.
For PR practitioners, this is a point to consider when choosing the right channels to reach our public in future campaigns. For a long time, customers prioritize social media in their marketing mix, but now traditional media will surely make its comeback in media plans after this occasion.
Utilization of technology
Adversity brings wisdom. Many brilliant ideas were born in this challenging time thanks to technology and the way it was implemented in communications campaigns. Never had 4.0 technology demonstrated its advantages more than during the Covid-19 pandemic.
For businesses, even the most basic technology played its part with smart implementation. For example, during the three weeks of social distancing in Vietnam during April, large local supermarket chains launched “grocery shopping” service to minimize consumers’ interaction in crowded places. When technology was applied to deploy non-contact trading, the sales of these supermarkets increased sharply. Many ride-hailing apps also rolled out their own grocery delivery service to adapt with customers’ changing need and behavior.
Even the non-tech savvy people must get familiar with new technology for remote working, online meetings or online lessons, online shopping and home delivery, etc. Once the get used to technology, PR practitioners could optimize these medium to interact with audiences. Particularly, a phone manufacturer recently livestreamed an online product launching event for Vietnamese media. With this, stakeholders did not have to spend their time traveling to the venue but could still receive the necessary information.
This can be considered as a stepping stone for these communications concepts to grow even after the pandemic crisis. Though these resources have always existed, this pandemic has urged the society to exploit the benefits coming from technology adoption.
The change in brand trust
Product or service quality, corporate social responsibility and core values are the top criteria that consumers consider in choosing a brand, respectively. However, there has been a change in their priority before and after the pandemic.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, quality is the number one criteria for consumers to choose a brand. Understanding this insight, most businesses directed their marketing and PR activities to emphasize the unique selling point and differentiation of their products or services. But at the time being, consumers now have a higher favor for brands that showcase their social responsibility. This is reflected in the case of using dragon fruit bread to rescue local agricultural products in Vietnam, or the case of sponsoring medical equipment and supplies for frontline medical staffs. Businesses who made an effort in fighting the pandemic has left a good impression on the community, and the impression will remain for quite a long time, thus contributing to increase brand trust in the community.
Corporate social responsibility not only refer to charity. Many businesses have joined hands to spread the Covid-19 prevention messages on their channels. These actions display businesses’ ethical values and their support for the society amidst hardships, and show that sales revenue is not the only thing they cared about.
A company’s reputation can be maintained or destroyed easily depending on how they respond and convey the message to the target audience. As marketing and PR strategy consultants, we need to think before sending any stories or messages to the target public. We also need to assess the appropriate time to deliver it or not. We must find ways to identify the public’s interests and changes in consumer behavior during and after the pandemic season to develop services and products that fit these changes.
EloQ Communications is a leading agency in public relations (PR) and integrated marketing communications (IMC) based in Ho Chi Minh City. With projects operated in Vietnam and throughout Asean countries, EloQ provides a wide range of integrated marketing services including public relations (PR), marketing strategy planning, social marketing, etc.
(X-posted on Clāra’s blog)