Five things brands need to consider in 2021
Over the last year, business communications became extremely challenging as companies were forced to adopt new lines of communication to coordinate teams and meet the demands of their clients. A strong but agile communication strategy was key to staying afloat and coming out of the previous year in a strong position. Another obstacle was to try and break through the massive digital clutter of this unprecedented year. Both new and established brands struggled to break through the social and media noise to engage their audiences.
So now that we are in 2021, what should communicators consider as we continue to navigate this not-so-new-anymore normal?
1. Quality over quantity in content creation continues to matter
The quality over quantity debate is not new and yet 2021 finds us still having to stress the importance of creating quality content. Why? It’s because this notion pushes us to have a deeper understanding of our target audience and what they find interesting and helpful to achieve success. As communicators we need to stop writing long-winded content pieces that don’t really say anything in the hopes of gaining favour with our audiences. Instead, we need to take time to understand and address our target audience’s pain points while educating them on difficult and challenging topics. This, in turn, will provide a higher level of engagement from our audience given that audiences are looking for messaging that resonates with them on a personal level.
2. Look into your diversity and inclusion efforts
Workplace statistics around diversity indicate that most companies need to urgently consider aspects of inclusivity in order to create a diverse workforce. In 2020, many companies were exposed as far as their diversity and inclusion agendas were concerned. From a communications strategy perspective, brands need to foster a company culture where every voice is welcome, heard, and respected before they can convince their audience to see more gender-neutral language and representative images and illustrations that companies use in their marketing and communications.
3. Don’t wait for a crisis. Plan ahead
If 2020 is anything to go by, then it proved that whether you’re a start-up or a large corporate, an effective crisis communication plan should always be at the heart of your wider communications strategy. The last few months have proved that a brand’s reputation is intrinsically linked to the bottom line. However, keep in mind that it’s rarely the crisis itself that destroys the reputation of a business – it’s the way that issues are handled. So, plan as far as possible and you will be ready for whatever comes, and miles ahead of your competition.
4. Brand purpose is going even further
The pandemic has offered brands a unique opportunity to demonstrate the value they create for all their stakeholders. At the height of Covid-19, with economic uncertainty mounting, employees, customers, shareholders and suppliers all looked to brands for assistance. Growing a brand during a pandemic is not an easy task, but the coronavirus has given companies the opportunity to successfully reposition their businesses within changing consumer needs and values that go beyond just offering the best product at the best price. Brands will need to play a much larger role as a force for good in the lives of everyone, and consumers will be more likely to hold these brands accountable on the promises they make. This purpose-driven trend will continue well into the years ahead, touching every face of brand strategy, from social media marketing to content creation.
5. A demand for authentic influencers means big news for your brand
Influencers will further cement their place in mainstream marketing this year; however, this will bring about a lot of challenges along the way. 2020 showed us that consumers are deeply invested in who the influencers they follow are as people. Beyond beauty tips or new recipes, consumers want to know what their favorite influencers are driven by, the causes they care about, and even their political beliefs. This means businesses must be especially careful in identifying influencers to represent their brand, making sure they’re vetting them beyond reach and demographics, and looking at their passions and how they connect with their followers to ensure they’re the right brand fit. Consumers continue to look for transparency, authenticity and genuine value, and brands need to step up.
Overall, 2021 will come with its own challenges. We can expect new curveballs to be thrown at us, but unlike 2020 these will find us better prepared and more resilient than ever. Certainly, we hope life, and in turn, the economy, gets back on track in 2021 so we can participate in growing a thriving workforce that contributes positively to our societies.
- Lerato Songelwa is deputy managing director at Hill+Knowlton Strategies South Africa.
The big take-out:
Consumers continue to look for transparency, authenticity and genuine value, and brands need to step up.
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