Communicators are an innovative bunch and have managed to find a lot of innovative ways to stay connected even as the COVID-19 pandemic has kept us all apart. Some methods we may be eager to ditch (can camera-off Zoom meetings be a thing again?), but others have the potential to improve the way we communicate after the quarantine is over.
Of course, we don’t know exactly when that will be, but it has to happen eventually. (Right? It has to. Netflix and working in your PJs got old fast.) And when it does, we’ll have a whole new collection of communications options at hand even after we’re able to see each other in person again.
One on One
The sudden influx of mass emails from numerous companies telling customers about their COVID-19 policy was so comically ubiquitous that it became a meme early on in the pandemic. But since then, brands have been finding more effective ways to communicate with their audiences via email. Brands providing updates on items in stock, new services or ways of providing services, even companies just checking in with their audience to see how they’re doing — they’ve used email as a proactive way of maintaining the customer relationship rather than just a one-way tool to convey information. It’s working now, and there’s no reason not to keep it working in the future.
Televisits — remote visits via video chat — are something many organizations already employed pre-pandemic and others had to adopt on the fly. It’s been used most widely in healthcare, allowing patients to see their doctors virtual-face-to-virtual-face for problems that can be discussed without a physical examination. Use of televisits in the healthcare field has skyrocketed since COVID-19 put in-person visits on hold, but doctors aren’t the only ones putting the technology to good use. Customers of fashion brand Allbirds are able to “visit” stores virtually, chatting with store associates and perusing displays. And numerous beauty brands have begun offering virtual consultations to allow customers to find the right lotions and serums to keep their skin glowing behind their responsible protective mask. Once the platform is set up, the service is offered and the audience has fallen in love with it, keeping it going post-quarantine means holding onto customers who might not otherwise feel inclined to shop for such a product in person.
One on Everyone
Obviously, you were planning on keeping your website up even after the pandemic ended. But think about how you’ve been using it since it all started. You’ve probably been concentrating on clearer and more comprehensive messaging, organizing information and presenting it where it’s easy for your audience to find and putting more thought into what your audience needs to know and where they’ll be expecting to find it. Well, keep it up! Look at all the care you’ve been putting into conveying COVID-19-related information, apply it to all the other information on your website and see how much your audience appreciates it.
In an effort to maintain customer engagements, some brands and individuals have taken to hosting streaming events for their audiences. Musical acts from Pearl Jam to the Roots have performed streaming concerts online, often benefiting charity. Robert Mondavi Winery is even offering virtual wine tastings. These free online events weren’t moneymakers, certainly, but not every engagement has to be — giving your audience something for free strengthens your relationship and builds affinity, which has a value all its own. If you’ve been engaging your audience with events like this and found that it didn’t break the bank, keep it up, and see how many of your virtual fans turn into IRL fans once that’s something we’re able to have again.
One interesting phenomenon resulting from pandemic lockdown is that social media influencers who would normally post photos lounging on exotic beaches or partying with people their fans would never meet in clothes they couldn’t afford are now… stuck at home with the rest of us. And as valuable as aspirational images can be to a brand, there’s also value in showing how that brand fits into the everyday life of people who are stuck at home but still able to appreciate a nice facial mask or a meal kit delivery. Maintaining that aspirational-meets-inspirational tone could be a way of also maintaining connections with an audience that has spent an entire quarantine seeing themselves in someone else’s glamorous-but-comfy sweatpants.
Keep It Up
We’re all hoping for the end of the pandemic and the return to whatever level of normalcy we’re able to regain. But when we reach that point — when we’re going to offices again and wearing pants with zippers again — there’s no reason to abandon everything that made life more livable, and business more doable, when we were all locked down. Necessity being the mother of invention, organizations have come up with numerous inventive ways to connect with their audience, and adding those to your traditional selection of methods can only make your communications that much more effective and your connections that much more meaningful.