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Marketing Public Relations Agency

3 techniques to protect your brand's reputation during the pandemic

By Tom Bestwick | PR and outreach specialist

Hallam

|

The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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April 21, 2020 | 9 min read

This is an incredibly difficult time for you and your business. More than likely, this global crisis has also affected your customers, or your suppliers, or your clients, or even all of them.

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3 techniques to protect your brand's reputation during the pandemic

Covid-19 has caused damage beyond more than just our health. Professional life, as we know it, has ceased for a large proportion of the UK and during times of uncertainty, it’s essential businesses are not only protecting their employees and customers, but brand reputation as well.

A key player in achieving that is the effective use of your internal and external digital PR communications.

Since the start of this crisis, we have seen a number of high-profile businesses deal with this situation badly - with their messaging resulting in them becoming the talk of national press and social media for all the wrong reasons. We don’t need to mention specific examples because there’s no doubt you will instinctively know.

Some, however, have deployed positive communications strategies that have protected and strengthened their brand during this time of uncertainty. As part of Hallam’s research, three techniques have acted as overriding points of note within these effective approaches towards retaining and enhancing a brand’s reputation. These are:

1) Clear and consistent lines of communication with colleagues, clients and suppliers

2) Going above and beyond and being helpful

3) Building digital communities and being transparent

We have elaborated on all three of these points in greater detail in this post, all of which will be invaluable to you when it comes to protecting your business’ brand during this Covid-19 crisis and beyond…

Establishing clear lines of communication

As we have alluded, your digital presence is important and so is getting your messaging right during this period.

The first port of call, if it hasn’t been already, should be your website and ensuring it is fully updated with your latest stance on Covid-19. Consider setting up a dedicated Covid-19 page as part of this – a location that supplies a regular stream of up to date information with regards to any operational changes you have made, including opening times, order timeframes and stock alterations, if appropriate.

Our advice would be that this is highlighted in the form of a clickable banner on your home page to direct your web traffic to one location.

Beyond your website, be mindful that your business’ information can be located elsewhere. Double and triple-check that all your important details on websites such as Google My Business are adapted accordingly to avoid causing any unnecessary confusion.

Don’t ignore the power of social media either. A link to your website’s dedicated COVID-19 page should be pinned to the top of your relevant channels throughout this crisis and if your Facebook Messenger account is receiving an abnormal number of enquiries, set an automatic reply that outlines your expected response time or provides helpful bite-size snippets.

Away from your customer-facing digital presence, making sure you get your internal communications right during this period is paramount. A large part of this will be ensuring your colleagues are updated just as regularly with the latest situation and are not kept in the dark.

Should your circumstances change, work with your workforce to ensure you and they are prepared. That leads us nicely on to our second strategic point.

Go above and beyond and be helpful

This is your opportunity to support not only your colleagues and current customers but also build brand trust and loyalty. Your actions during this time will be remembered beyond this crisis.

You are likely to receive a lot of questions during this period, particularly from your colleagues who will feel a great deal of uncertainty and the knock-on effect of that when it comes to mental health. A dedicated FAQ sheet should be considered and adapted as this crisis develops to help ensure they have a first port of call for any questions they may have in relation to their work.

Be helpful to your colleagues during this time, answer questions, work with them and provide options. During our research we have seen a number of examples of businesses that have been highlighted for the following:

1) Not looking after the welfare of their colleagues

2) Treated them badly and forcing them to remain working – some even as ‘non-essential’ workers

3) Not communicating effectively

We have seen a number of horror stories relating to all three of the above points and all three have inevitably led to businesses being the talk of social media for all the wrong reasons. You might not hit the headlines for doing all three of the above well, but you will have the gratitude and trust of your colleagues and customers during this period and beyond, which will count for so much more in the long run.

Working from home

You are most likely in this position now where you have ceased operating OR have transitioned to working from home, but is that something your colleagues are prepared for?

A change in routine, different work settings, and social distancing has proven tough for many, so being proactive creates clarity.

Provide digital working from home guides, encourage wellbeing tips and keep in constant dialogue – ideally through video call software, like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom and Google Hangouts – to ensure your staff does not feel isolated.

Like your colleagues, clients and suppliers will have questions. Maybe they are suffering through this hardship too. Be as supportive as you can be and keep in open dialogue. They are more likely to remain working with you post-Covid-19 if you show a willingness to support them during their own struggles.

Honesty is the best policy to build a digital community

It’s been touched upon in the first two sections, but, as the saying goes, honesty is the best policy for your brand. That is the case now more than ever.

The situation with Covid-19 is changing at a daily rate and so consider how you can be transparent within all of your internal communications and ensure your colleagues know where you stand as a business. Your digital assets will play a significant role in this, as well as when it comes to building camaraderie outside of your workforce.

As part of this, the tone you adopt will be vital. Within your customer-facing communications, ensure to remain optimistic while not making light of the current crisis. Promote the necessary stay at home messages, the government guidelines and display your value to the work of the NHS – tactics that have, naturally, been vastly well-received during this period.

PR and outreach remains key

While the time for creative campaigns has been temporarily put on the backburner, there is still a lot that can be done to ensure you remain current. Your business’ voice remains key in your targeted local and trade publications that are pushing hard to discover content. Thought leadership and industry views around your experiences and your predictions for the future should be considered to ensure you remain present in your sector.

That is definitely not to say there is no room for creativity, however.

If your business has the capabilities, use this period of time to give back to the local community, a charity or someone less fortunate through imaginative activities. Take the time to speak and brainstorm with your colleagues about the different ways you can do so.

The likelihood is that someone in your business is doing something impactful within your local environment or committing to helping people in need. Take a business stance to do the same and invite your local community – again, via your digital assets – to join you in doing something positive or charitable and create a wave of positive momentum.

And finally, but definitely not least, please remember that, one day, this crisis will be a distant memory and normality will return. We’d definitely advise making sure you’re well prepared for that too by downloading and reading Hallam’s eBook: The Future of Digital Marketing and Beyond.

In the meantime, stay safe!

Tom Bestwick, PR and outreach specialist, Hallam

Marketing Public Relations Agency

Content by The Drum Network member:

Hallam

We’re a multi-award winning full-service digital agency based in the UK, and a trusted partner to some of the world’s biggest national and international brands.

Putting digital at the heart of our clients’ future success, we create innovative strategies that deliver significant growth and exceptional results through our integrated web design and development, SEO, PPC, CRO, Social Media and PR services.

We strive to innovate and share expertise and for the second year have organised the Midlands’ biggest digital conference - Nottingham Digital Summit. This event brings together industry experts from the likes of Google, Virgin Media, Jaguar Land Rover and Experian to inspire over 700 local business people with the latest digital trends to grow their companies. What’s more, all proceeds go to support The Nottingham Samaritans.

Our services

As a full-service agency we’re able to use our combined expertise in a range of digital marketing specialisms to create multi-layered campaigns and strategies:

- Our high-impact technical SEO campaigns deliver results that improve client visibility in search engine results pages;

- We create award-winning websites – technically sound, visually stunning, with seamless user experiences;

- Taking paid advertising to the next level, our data-driven insights and highly crafted, bespoke in-house tools deliver business-changing results;

- Tailored PR campaigns have raised clients’ brand awareness and secured top coverage across the digital landscape;

- We have a proven strategy using testing tools and monitoring clients’ online visitors, establishing the greatest impact on CRO and delivering permanent performance improvements;

- Harnessing the true power of social media we build creative, innovative campaigns that truly create a digital buzz.

Bringing together industry-leading expertise, we employ 65 people across core delivery teams from our Nottingham base.

Our clients

We partner with international organisations such as Speedo, The United Nations, Esso, Saint Gobain and Suzuki as well trusted UK brands such as Raleigh, Travis Perkins, The BBC, Jägermeister, TTS Group and Castle Rock Brewery. We consistently deliver transformational results; on average our clients see a 69% rise in organic traffic, 54% increase in ecommerce revenue, and a 65% increase in lead generation.

- Raleigh Bikes’ new website delivered improved conversion rates with a 675% increase in ecommerce revenue year on year, and a 370% increase in their Black Friday sales attributed to our Digital PR campaign;

- We helped Speedo deliver brand consistency across national and international digital channels, streamlining their online user experience;

- Our social media strategy for the United Nations helped them reach more than 15 million users worldwide;

- A bespoke website for Virtual Runner increased their average spend per transaction by 80% with a 57% increase in subscriptions since it’s launch.

“Hallam have delivered above and beyond what we expected, and are an absolute joy to work with.” ~Rikke Hennum, Campaign Coordinator, United Nations Free & Equal Campaign

Our people

Developing our staff, both personally and professionally, is one of our business objectives. We invest heavily in staff training and development, with wellbeing initiatives that include weekly yoga sessions, unlimited home working and mental health training.

We invest a combined 900 hours per month (2 days per employee) on a protected learning time initiative with everyone receiving an annual training budget of £2,000 to use on courses of their choice.

Our awards

We’re incredibly proud of our track record. Our work has been recognised across numerous industry-renowned awards with five trophies at The Drum Recommended Agency Awards, including the Grand Prix - award for overall best digital agency.

Our awards and nominations span all areas of our expertise. It’s just one of the things that pushes us to stay ahead of the curve for our clients and it’s a great feeling when that work gets noticed. Check out a selection of them:

The Drum Recommended Digital Agency Awards

- Grand Prix - Agency of the Year (40-99 Staff) Winner

- Search

- Usability

- Client Service

- Full Digital Service

Google Premier Partner Awards

- 2019 EMEA Winner of the Growing Business Online Award

- 2018 finalists in Shopping Innovation and Display Innovation

DADI Awards

- finalist

UK Digital Experience Awards

- Best Online User Experience B2C - Silver

- Best Agency - Winner

- Shortlisted for three awards in 2019

European Search Awards

- Best Large SEO Agency - Finalist

- Best Large PPC Agency - Finalist

- Shortlisted in five awards in...

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