Pandemic Communication: Don't Forget to Address Changing Values
A recent study by the Zeno Group indicates that one of the many things that has changed during the COVID-19 era is our values. Specifically, for the first time since the Great Depression era, Americans have shifted from materialism to frugality, and away from self-centered ambition toward duty. The research shows that the values rising most in importance today are associated with family, interpersonal relationships, self-sufficiency, honesty, thrift and duty.
This shift may not come as a surprise, but it is something that all companies should consider as we move forward in this pandemic. How and what we communicate is top of mind to all of us. However, this new study requires us to not only consider our communication related to COVID-19 and its implications, but also the tone of our marketing and messaging as we emerge from the pandemic. According to Therese Caruso, Managing Director of Global Strategy and Insights at Zeno Group, organizations need to increase their stakeholder listening and demonstrate their sense of responsibility, as well as exhibit greater appreciation for economic hardships. She noted that companies that offer practical solutions to the new challenges – as opposed to overt marketing – will win in the marketplace.
So, how does this apply to us in the B2B space? After all, we aren’t typically communicating with consumers, rather, business to business. While our communication channels look different, it is key to understand that such significant changes in values will permeate our buying patterns overall. It is advised that, as we move through the pandemic and our post-COVID-19 world, whenever that may be, communicators must recognize that buyers want the organizations they partner with, or purchase goods and services from, to acknowledge this shift in values. For example, consider sharing with your customers how you are working to streamline the virtual ordering process so that their service isn’t interrupted, without costs increasing. Or, outlining to employees that cuts that are being made to activities such as eliminating the company picnic and non-essential training/development in order to continue to fund healthcare costs for those employees that are temporarily laid off. An acknowledgement of the values shift is key to effectively reaching your target audiences.
Another key element of successful messaging as we move ahead in this next phase of the pandemic is consistency. Most of us are tired of crafting the emails with updates on our adapted processes, work from home strategies and commitment to the safety of our clients and employees, but we need to keep them coming at a regular interval. Consider having a theme for your updates, such as key headings related to operations, sales and what going back to the office looks like. Although you don’t have all the answers, share what you know, be transparent about what you don’t know and what you are working on, and when you’ll provide more information. We’ve trained our employees and our customer-base to get updates, so disappearing at this time creates confusion and maybe even lack of trust.
Staying the course with consistent communication will go a long way in addressing the values shift to honesty