Business now more than ever must be relevant to their local community - Susan Briggs

World events like Covid-19 change the way we do business.

Mindsets are affected and marketing changes. It’s particularly noticeable in current TV ads: lots of sombre music, short pieces to camera by ‘real people’ and many ‘we’ll be there for you’ messages. There’s a fine line between emotional appeal and trite.

Those who adapt fastest to the ‘new normal’ will be the survivors in this changed world. If you’re thinking about what to do right now to be recovery-ready, you could start with a look at your marketing.

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‘Authenticity’ has been a marketing buzz word for a while. Some marketers spend a lot of time trying to be authentic, unaware of the irony of their effort.

Locally-minded firms will benefit.

If we didn’t really know what authentic was BC (before Covid), we do now. Anyone who has participated in a Zoom call will know what I mean. Leisure wear has replaced ties and suits.

We’ve glimpsed colleagues’ kitchens, spare rooms and lounges. We’ve judged their bookshelves.

This simple change will influence how we react both to future business situations and promotions. We’ll respond better to more personalised and informal marketing messages and be less forgiving of manufactured authenticity.

Home-working has had another effect. Highly respected TV presenters and reporters are also seen to struggle with finding a quiet space from which to broadcast, juggling home and professional lives.

We’ve got used to seeing less polished broadcasts, with TV reporters filming themselves, propping up their microphones and cameras and just doing their best.

Video already had a growing influence on social media engagement. More and more businesses had started to commission video and use short films as part of their promotional activity.

We’ve seen professionals recording essential interviews on their phone and are accepting of imperfect filming. I think it’s likely that video will now become an even more important marketing medium. Better still, low budget self-filmed versions will be seen as more authentic and personal, and therefore more convincing.

We’ll appreciate polished professionals but recognise that we can have a go ourselves too.

The difficulties of home-schooling have been much discussed. The next time teachers ask for a pay rise, parents will nod knowingly. The same goes for medics, carers, milkmen, bakers.

Social media is full of gratitude for people we might have previously taken for granted.

This is bound to have a longer-term impact, with companies rushing to associate themselves with organisations and professionals whose value has become more apparent.

Some of this will be well-intentioned and designed to genuinely support, some will be more cynical virtue-signalling. You might want to consider more subtle ways of showing how your business cares.

Caring and kindness have become dominant themes in the Covid crisis. It would be good to think these values will continue to be important. They link well to another theme – loving all things local. We’ve talked about this for years. The appreciation now feels deeper. Now is the time to think about where your business is based, and the relevance of your company to the local community.

Just saying ‘local’ isn’t enough – we need to show proof of our commitment to the local area and what it really means.

As restrictions ease we’re going to see a flood of people wanting to meet up with their friends and relatives. Any business that can facilitate this or build marketing messages around the natural desire to spend time with other like-minded humans will do well.

There’s another important message businesses will need to use over the coming weeks: reassurance. While relishing new-found freedoms, we’ll still want to know how to keep safe, what companies are doing to protect customers and employees. It won’t be enough to simply say what you’re doing – proof will be essential.