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TODD SMITH — Consumers have confidence brands can lead in Coronavirus response

TODD SMITH

Edelman’s trust barometer has previously identified a shift in consumer sentiment where more people are valuing the actions of brands over institutions like the media and government.

That trend has jumped to center stage in a more significant way as countries around the world scramble to respond to a coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in a climbing human toll and upturned industries.

“This global crisis will fundamentally change how we think, behave, and consume,” Edelman CEO Richard Edelman wrote in the report. “There is no rapid return to normal.”

However, developing campaigns and products that address the crisis could be difficult in a remote work situation and economic environment where marketers are experiencing sharp budgetary pressures. The risk of botching communications around the pandemic is higher, as consumers are putting a premium on trust and could turn against brands they view as cynically capitalizing on the moment.

Edelman conducted its research across 12 markets, interviewing 12,000 people in the U.S., U.K., China and other countries around the world. A strong underlying theme in the report is the demand for serious, utility-minded marketing strategies and prioritization of people’s safety above all else.

Ninety percent of global respondents want brands to put their best efforts into safeguarding the health and financial security of employees and suppliers during the pandemic, even if it means taking on “substantial” losses in the near term. Such findings come as workers at companies like Instacart, Amazon and Amazon’s grocery subsidiary Whole Foods go on strike over health and pay concerns.

Consumer anxieties have also led many brands to adjust their creative and media strategies, dropping campaigns that nod to mass gatherings, human contact or other behaviors that could be negatively associated with the virus. Edelman’s report suggests that companies now angling to bring some levity to the situation could be off-base, with more than half of those surveyed calling for a full stop to any light-hearted or humorous messaging. Launching products also poses a challenge, as 54% of people said they will not pay attention unless the new offering is specifically designed to address pandemic issues.

The research indicates areas marketers might instead focus on to engage their audiences during a deeply uncertain time. For example, 84% of consumers want brands to give tips on coping with the pandemic. This desire has been reflected in an uptick in promotions and free apps centered on health and wellness, meditation and stress relief. Nearly 90% of respondents would also appreciate brands that offer free or lower-priced products to health workers, high-risk individuals and those whose jobs have been impacted by the pandemic.

More purpose-led actions now could be a crucial way for brands to build long-term equity that will last after the worst of the coronavirus passes. Edelman found that 65% of consumers said a brand’s crisis response today will influence their likelihood of purchasing in the future.

The global COVID-19 crisis is fundamentally changing how we think, behave and consume. There is no rapid return to normal, and our new world will have trust at its core, with the brand mandate expanded to solve problems for all, care for all, collaborate with all and innovate in the greater public interest. At the pinnace of deepest global crisis, the public seeks for brands to be in sync with us – with safety and help top-of-mind.

Brands acting in the interest of its employees, stakeholders and society will reinforce their vision, leadership and trust, significantly increasing the bond with consumers, according to the Edelman study.

The Queen makes a Coronavirus entrance

During a troublesome day for Britain, in which Downing Street announced Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted into the hospital for complications due to coronavirus, Queen Elizabeth II emerged for a rare address. Not only were loyal subjects looking for guidance, but the queen enticed a global audience looking for reassurance from the 93-year-old matriarch during this pandemic.

This was only the fifth time the queen has conducted such an address in her 68-year reign. Others included a live broadcast after the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, and a statement at the beginning of England’s involvement in the Iraq War.

While more of a figurehead than political stakeholder, the queen provides messaging that does not necessarily inform, but inspires and rallies the public. It’s important for a public figure to know their place in a crisis, as well as the tone and content an audience is expecting from them, when creating messaging.

In the speech, Queen Elizabeth encouraged citizens and the world that uniting, following protocols and coming together would help us to overcome this disease.

She engaged older Britons, referencing WWII and her first broadcast in 1940, when at age 14, she addressed children evacuated from their homes for their own safety. The separation of families during social distancing and current quarantine issues rang familiar.

Queen Elizabeth also inspired gratitude by thanking health care workers for their service, as well as citizens for staying home, even in the midst of financial turmoil.

She ended her speech with an encouraging acknowledgement that the crisis would end, and the reunions would be worth the temporary setbacks.

It was a beacon of hope moment!

Pressed Mic: White House Press Secretary Leaves Before Formal Press Briefing

Stop the presses!

The White House press secretary – Stephanie Grisham – is out after never holding a formal press briefing.

President Donald Trump shook up his communications team this week, replacing his press secretary and adding new staffers as he grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

Grisham, who had held the titles of press secretary and White House communications director since last June, will be rejoining the first lady’s office in a new role as Melania Trump’s chief of staff.

Kayleigh McEnany, a top Trump campaign spokeswoman, will take over as Trump’s fourth press secretary. Also returning to the White House is Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah, according to the Associated Press.

Grisham, who succeeded Sarah Sanders and Sean Spicer, was arguably the nation’s least visible press secretary in modern history, having never held a press briefing during her nine months on the job.

While she made occasional appearances on the Fox News Channel, she preferred to tape her interviews in a studio to avoid having to speak to reporters on the White House driveway after appearing on TV cameras set up outside the executive mansion. Her departure was not a surprise. Grisham had been largely sidelined since the start of the pandemic, with the press team for Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the coronavirus task force, taking the lead. In addition, Mark Meadows, the president’s new chief of staff, has been working to bring on his own team, including senior adviser Ben Williamson.

The role of press secretary has been a particularly challenging one under the media-obsessed Trump, who believes himself to be his best spokesman, communications director and strategist, and demands absolute loyalty.

Over the last several weeks, Trump has revived the tradition of the daily press briefing, personally taking the stage in the White House briefing room to try to put a positive spin on the federal government’s response to the pandemic.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» TODD SMITH is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm – based in Nashville, Tenn. – is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, follow him @spinsurgeon and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners.

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