The COVID-19 crisis reshaped so much, including the PR and communication landscape. When the pandemic struck, PR pros adopted tactics to get messages seen and heard amid the melee. Nearly 20 months hence, communication tactics that worked during the pandemic's peak may no longer be appropriate. Fresh thinking is needed. At this moment of reflection for communicators, here are three tactics that we think will become increasingly important.
Continue to Lead with Empathy
While the worst of the pandemic seems behind us, its emotional scarring is not. People have lost loved ones and jobs, and there is a growing walking wounded suffering long-term after-effects.
Early in the pandemic Gil Bashe called for PR pros to communicate from the heart. That's still the case. Empathy remains one of the most important tools in your communication strategy.
The challenge has changed, though. Instead of talking about donations of PPE and hand sanitizer, the message now is about how we're bouncing back. Businesses need to show appreciation for healthcare heroes who helped us through the pandemic. In addition, they should communicate support of employees who were affected.
We also need 'feel-good stories' about how businesses and people thrived and not just survived the crisis. A human-interest angle relates how people recovered and are heading back to offices. It's time for business to show their human side and continue the pandemic-induced empathy-led approach to communication.
Offer a New Digital Experience
As we know, a lot of communication has transitioned online in the wake of the pandemic. This has led to overcrowding in the digital space. As a result, the need to offer compelling content is great.
To do this effectively, businesses will need to offer innovative digital experiences, resulting in enhanced engagement and increased interactivity. Using cutting-edge 3D digital technology, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) techniques, businesses can offer a new kind of immersive digital engagement to customers.
In the post-pandemic age, we need a creative revolution in digital communication that combines digital strategy with innovative design to make messages pop. Off-the-shelf digital solutions should be off the agenda.
Remember, 3D, AR and VR can't overcome dull, poorly written and badly targeted messages.
Positive Messaging Delivers Behavior Change
One of the most striking features of the COVID-19 crisis is the power of emotionally driven messaging to deliver behavior change.
At the start of the pandemic, the U.K. government's message was "Stay at Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives."
These were clear, hard-hitting and emotionally resonant. It prompted one of the most unprecedented acts of civil obedience in the nation's peacetime history. As we transition to the next phase, more positive messages are replacing those highlighting danger.
For instance, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is running a positive public health campaign, "We Can Do This." Its aim is to increase vaccine uptake and reinforce prevention measures.
Delivering behavior change isn't easy, but the right communication tactics make it possible. As the world emerges from the pandemic, businesses increasingly will need to communicate behavior change. These changes will include new working arrangements for employees or modifications to how customers access services. Embracing positive messaging will be crucial to making change happen.
Karen Winterhalter is managing director of Onyx Health