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The 3 phases of Corona-comms

We received the email yesterday that school is back on May 26. Our little enclave of three, working and schooling at home together, is coming to an end. I’ll have to go back to getting-up, exercising, dressed, fed and getting Isla ready for school, all before 9am. Basically, I’m going back to being an adult.

With the lockdowns being lifted, I think we're about to experience the third phase of company messaging. Not in the exact words of Monty Python - no one expects a global pandemic lockdown - let alone how to manage in one. I've been watching from the sidelines since January how companies are handling their communications during this rollercoaster time. As I see it, there are three distinctive phases of company messaging that have come out during the pandemic.

Phase one was the warm embrace - we're in this together. I’m sure we all received an influx of emails from every company we’ve ever bought from, worked with, worked for or subscribed to, offering their support during this 'trying time'. Obscurely, I even received a personalised email from a real estate agent we used in Sydney, 5 years ago, telling me in a generic message, that he was here for me should I need anything during the crisis?

Phase two of covid comms shifted to companies letting customers know they were taking appropriate cautions and stepping up their cleaning/hygiene game. That one got me. What the hell had they been doing before? I'd always thought cleaning and hygiene are entry-level standard business practice?! I also noticed the blame game starting creeping in a bit here, with lots of companies quick to point to the virus for any issue a customer complained of.

As we turn the corner toward the restrictions lifting, I’m braced for phase three. I have a hunch we’re all about to receive an intense onslaught of ‘purchase my products, come to my events, use my services, buy these tickets’ in emails/texts/posts/ads. Of course, I could switch off all my devices, but as if, I’m not ready to be a monk yet.

I totally get that companies need to get back in the game and remind their audiences they’re back in business. And it’s not to say I don’t love spending money or buying things – I absolutely love doing both. But I care for the courtship ritual too. Shouting at me to buy more stuff isn’t how I like to shop. I like the dance and the romance. I like it when companies pique my curiosity and I lean forward because I want to know what’s behind the curtain. I want to buy things and experiences, but I want the story that goes with it too.

There’s no real guidebook on how to handle your company comms during a pandemic global lockdown (I know there’ll be lots after this), but the old PR rule of thumb came popping into my mind this week – the two things to remember, before you speak to your audience, are commonsense and good manners.

As we slid into this pandemic, every business was faced with its own problems, some ground to halt, some pivoted their business model, and some hit J curve growth. But no matter what happened, what audiences will remember is how a business carried itself during the crisis? What energy did they bring to your inbox? Did they remember that if they’re hurting, then their customers probably are too?

Discounting all of the above though is one sector who have daintily sidestepped acknowledging this whole sorry mess - high-end luxury. It could be a true feature of luxury that to look at reality is boring, so best stay in the bubble with your head in the clouds. Can't say I disagree, it basically sums up my lockdown mantra!


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