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E-scooters at a crossroads
E-scooters at a crossroads

Archive for the ‘Communications’ Category

E-scooters at a crossroads

E-scooter manufacturers, providers, schemes and riders have been left waiting for certainty on their future.  

After last year’s Queen’s Speech, Ministers confirmed their intention to legislate on e-scooters, moving beyond the time bound and limited role e-scooters currently have. Two Prime Ministers and 3 Transport Ministers later, the future of e-scooters is back up in the air.  

The Transport Bill – that would have been the vehicle for legalisation and legislation – has been a casualty of upheaval at the heart of government. Now Ministers and officials are left having to bid for parliamentary time again, with even fiercer competition for time in the last King’s Speech of this government before an election.  

Despite the transformational role e-scooters could play for travel, particularly in urban areas, there is a risk that new decision makers have lost track of e-scooters’ congestion busting, cost saving and carbon cutting benefits. The Ministers, advisers and champions that secured the announcement from government have moved on, and the new crop have yet to make a full throated endorsement.  

In the face of this challenge, WA’s latest transport temperature check polled public attitudes to e-scooters to analyse the challenges in the road ahead.  

Whilst there is still a route to legalisation and legislation, we have found that more of the public is opposed to e-scooter legislation. It means advocates start on the back foot, and need to both convince the sizeable number of ‘don’t knows’ (one in four people) and address the concerns of opponents. Safety risks to other road and footway users is the most commonly cited reason for opposing legalisation, driven by persistent coverage of dangerous incidents.   

If these and other concerns are not addressed, the case for legalisation will diminish. Ministers, advisers and officials will either be unwilling or unsuccessful in their bids for time to act in the King’s Speech later this year, with Number 10 instead deciding to focus on less controversial and easier to deliver policies. 

In turn, Labour has been able to stay largely silent on the e-scooter debate. There is a narrow window to ensure Labour’s transport team prioritises e-scooters, to keep pressure on the government now and ensure it does not drop off the agenda completely should they win. 

The next 6 months are critical if the industry wants to escape the legal limbo it is in. Only by delivering a gear change in engagement can the industry secure its long term future and make sure that the key political decision makers in both the Conservatives and Labour understand the benefits e-scooters will deliver for their agendas.  

Doing so will help build a new consensus on the future of e-scooters, but missing this opportunity means the wheels could fall off completely.

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‘Where’ve yer bin?’ – how Truss lost the battle for local media

When your first appearance on the media since a major economic intervention causes you to tank in the polls and face mutiny from your own MPs, then it is probably safe to assume it hasn’t gone well.

Despite many Truss detractors claiming that this was a move of arrogance – underestimating the journalistic prowess of local hacks – there was more strategic thinking at play by the Truss camp. The premise made sense when faced with a ‘Westminster Bubble’ rebellion and days before Tory conference – bypass the bubble and get straight to the people that matter – the voters.

However, if ever there was an example of a well thought through comms strategy with poor delivery, this was it. With a little more preparation, maybe some of the disasters could have been averted.

So what went wrong?

Local journalists are connected to the concerns of their local readers or listeners in a way that national journalists never can be. While the national news outlets are the scene setters of the national mood, the regional reporters are the ones with the ability to get under the skin of the real-life impact on voters. Truss simply wasn’t prepared for the local-level questions fired at her by, for example, BBC Radio Lancashire. A by-election due there soon will be dominated by fracking – banned at present but which Truss wants to allow, but only with ‘local consent.’ Presenter Graham Liver leapt on this, asking ‘what does local consent look like?’  before pointing out that the local MP, Mark Menzies was anti-fracking. Similarly, on BBC Leeds she was asked for her thoughts about the Leeds bus services. Being able to answer these kinds of a local-level questions is a must for anyone going up against regional press – Truss simply wasn’t over the detail.

With the Prime Minister only having a few seconds between each interview – and within such a short time-frame – she was on the back foot from the start. Had she appeared on one of the flagship BBC Programs, the scope for longer, more in-depth questioning would have been greater, but the fight would have been fairer. The presenter and their producers would have worked up questions in advance; Truss’ media SpAds would be working from the opposite side, anticipating the obvious questions and nailing down their defensive messages.

The reality of the situation was far from ideal for Truss – whilst she was bounced from one interview to another, the producers at each of the radio stations were able to revise questions in real time, pointing out flaws on answers given only minutes or even seconds before. With her final interview kicking off on BBC Radio Stoke at 8:52am, this gave the Stoke presenters nearly an hour of prep time where Truss wouldn’t have been able to consult her media advisors. Far from getting into any kind of ‘flow,’ the PM was left running around in circles and tying herself in knots.

The format of the regional programs didn’t just give journalists the upper hand on the questioning – it also created the perfect short sound-bites for digitally savvy national media, with the opening ‘where’ve yer bin’ question from BBC Leeds shared embedded into national articles far and wide. In what rapidly became a national media blood bath, even the pro-Truss Telegraph struggled to defend the performance, while the Independent led with a simple ‘Seven best local radio takedowns of Liz Truss as she fails to defend ‘disastrous’ mini-budget.’ In a world of clicks and shares, the articles practically wrote themselves.

While Truss isn’t renowned for having the media flair of Johnson or even Sunak’s smooth delivery, it was something she was widely reported to be working on, with her performance throughout the leadership contest getting markedly better. However, this interview round showed a Prime Minister still clearly uncomfortable in front of a microphone, and lacking Johnson’s flexibility and ability to pivot away from difficult questions.

The result was a stilted performance that, by the fourth round of questioning started to sound more like an actor rehearsing their lines than the bold, trailblazing leader of the Tory revolution that party members voted for.

 

 

 

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Natasha Egan-Sjodin wins Mark of Excellence at the CIPR Awards 2022

We are extremely proud of WA’s Natasha Egan-Sjodin for winning the Mark of Excellence award in the Outstanding Young Communicator of the Year category, at last night’s CIPR 2022 awards ceremony.

 

 

The highly regarded award commends the outstanding work of young professionals in the industry who are making a valuable contribution to the organisations they work for and show considerable promise in their future career.

Natasha’s triumph is recognition of her many work-related achievements, hard-fought campaign wins, and her contributions to the wider industry – a well-deserved win!

We thoroughly enjoyed the evening celebrating excellence in the UK’s PR industry and offer our congratulations to all the winners.

 

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What’s in an image?

So, what’s in an an image? Well, quite a lot actually, as they say that you make a decision based on emotion first, then the facts. Not what our research team at WA like to hear, but as human beings, we do often make judgements based on our instincts first.

Today we are bombarded by imagery on a grand scale. Like it or not, we are the Instagram generation being constantly fed powerful images that reflect our life around us and informs our view on the world. With so much ‘visual noise’ imagery can become meaningless, superficial, bland, and quite frankly ‘safe’.

The image needs to work harder for us.

One of our key roles at WA Creative is to find ways to connect and make the message land with the key audience with the right tone. Even with the most in-depth research and a water-tight strategy they won’t have the desired effect if the images chosen aren’t adding relevance, authenticity and emotional ways to connect with the audience.

The American Alfred Stieglitz, one of the most significant contributors to the history of photography once said that “In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” Good photography is an art of observation. Great imagery gives meaning to the subject matter and finds something interesting in the ordinary every day.

Whether it’s a piece of literature or a brand identity, you have small window to convey the sentiment and companies’ values – framing them with a clear visual representation. From the original innovators to modern day designer, the same theory applies to making an impact – choosing the right image is vital in making the work sing.

Now we have to be realistic – budgets and time constraints means images need to be chosen at pace. Gone are the days when every project involved a bespoke photoshoot. Enter stage left – the powerful stock photo library.

We need to ask ourselves are we really that satisfied with what there is to offer out there? Many company brand guidelines that we come across contain image sections that diligently attempt to capture the brand in a unique way but often fails on its application, leading to bland, meaningless support imagery that neither gives those companies clearwater nor conveys their messages in meaningful ways.

For these reasons we’re always pushing ourselves further to ensure that imagery chosen is always relevant and speaks with as genuine a voice as possible. Using stock is often the easier route and we accept it for all its faults, but it still needs a good eye to choose the good from the bad, a relentless attitude to sourcing appropriate images and rigour in its application. We push our clients to be brave and consider imagery that works as hard as possible – to be emotive, surprising and most of all be authentic.

Please contact us if you wish to explore how we can help support you on getting the most out of imagery and finding better ways to connect with your audience.

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Santa sees Red

St Nicholas traditionally was always portrayed as a mythical character dressed in dark green and was more likely to be seen wandering aimlessly around a forest setting with firewood in his arms than presents. So, when did he change into his famous red coat, with a welcoming glow, and become the universally recognised image we know so well today?

Many people still believe that Coke is responsible for inventing his persona, dressing him in their trademark red and white colours to push their own brand marketing strategies in 1930s America. The reality is Coke didn’t create the famous Santa Claus image but nevertheless took full advantage of the colour red being aligned with their own.

Santa Claus in his many forms, has been a prominent figure of Western folklore for centuries, inspired by numerous historical and mythical figures including the Christian Bishop “St Nicholas of Myra” – a monk living around 280AD in what is now Turkey.

The modern-day image of Father Christmas was popularised in Victorian times by poems and short stories. The cartoonist Thomas Nast did a huge amount to spread the modern characteristics of Santa in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, as part of a large illustration titled ‘A Christmas Furlough’. There are also numerous popular depictions of him wearing red with his large white beard in the 19th century including advertising campaigns for the US Confection Company’s Sugar Plums, as well as being featured on the cover of humour magazine Puck.

 

 

During 1931, Coca Cola commissioned a Swedish-American illustrator called Haddon Sundblom to create an oil painting of Santa Claus drinking a coke on Christmas Eve. Based on the Cement Clarke Moor poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ published in 1822, he gave him a huge white beard, rosy cheeks and a fuller figure.

Though the Sundblom image of Santa wasn’t what the public was used to at the time, it quickly became an iconic image, replicated by writers, filmmakers, and artists throughout the world. People everywhere were keen to embrace this new idea of a playful, fun, and welcoming Father Christmas. With a little brand know-how, Coca-Cola was ableto associate itself with the joy of Christmas turning it into the definitive iconic Santa we know and love today.

Today, colour continues to be a vital aspect in the recognition of a company, along with your image, personality and the way you communicate with your customers it plays a huge role in how you are perceived. Brand engagement begins by creating something your customers feel compelled to connect and associate with.

Our skills lie in making the most of what you stand for and to make the most of your personality. Over the past few years, we have seen brands having the confidence to flex their colours to get behind movements such as LGBTQ or offer support to the likes of our NHS. It appears a simple thing, but colour can say such a lot about who you are.

Please contact Creative if you wish to explore how your own company or organisation can have more impact that’s not just for Christmas.

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The secret to a great media interview: preparation

The biggest tip anyone can be given ahead of an upcoming media interview is prepare, prepare, prepare. No matter how well you know the topic, your business, or feel like you already know what you want to say during the interview, nothing overrides the essential need to prepare.

Know your key messages

Henry Kissinger once famously opened a press conference saying: ‘Does anyone have any questions for my answers?’ Kissinger clearly knew what messages he wanted to convey, and was ready to deliver his points regardless of the questions thrown at him.

When preparing for an interview, make sure you plan the three main points you want to get across. These key messages should be the answers you keep coming back to again and again during your interview.

To define these key messages, imagine you are reading the published article after your interview and the story includes only three or four sentences quoting you – what do you hope these sentences say? These are your key messages.

Make these messages sharp and know them inside out.

Anticipate the questions you’ll be asked

Even if you’re about to do a ‘friendly’ interview, take the time to think through the tough questions you’ll be asked – it’s better to think through these questions and practise how you want to respond, rather than be caught off guard during the interview.

Not only should you think through the easy and tough questions that might come your way on the interview topic itself, but you should also ask yourself what else the journalist could touch on.

What else is going on in your company? Are there any historical issues in your company that the journalist might bring up? What’s happening in the wider sector they might ask you to comment on? What are your competitors up to? What else is generally in the news today that they might ask your opinion on?

Now it’s time to practise

You now know the key messages you want to focus on during the interview. You have thought extensively about the questions that could come your way. Now it’s time to practise.

No matter how experienced you are at media interviews, take the time to rehearse and practise in advance with a communications adviser or experienced colleague.

Practise your answers to the easy questions to make sure you are succinctly communicating the story you want to tell – don’t assume you’ll get it right the first time because people usually don’t.

And then make sure you have a wide range of tougher questions thrown at you, so you become confident in how you will handle them, and comfortable with the message you’re giving.

 

Media interviews are an essential communication tool for organisations and business leaders – and learning how to handle them successfully is an acquired skill. Preparation and practise are essential, always. Make sure this time is protected in your diary ahead of a media interview to give yourself the best chance of success.

To find out more about WA’s media training workshops, contact Sarah Gullo.

 

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The year of opinions: corporate communications strategies post-pandemic

Despite prophesies of demise for many years, the sales of traditional newspapers continue to make a tentative recovery, helped almost certainly by a news agenda that shows no sign of slowing down, with crisis after crisis plaguing the worlds of both politics and business. Set against this turbulent backdrop, what does it mean to communicate well in 2021 and how can strategic communications support your wider objectives?

‘If it’s not Covid, it won’t make the cut’ was the oft-quoted refrain of 2020 when it came to the media landscape. For businesses who weren’t prepared to shoehorn their agenda to fit this brief, corporate communications teams were dealing with a real challenge – how to engage with the media amidst the toughest news cycle for a generation? This wasn’t just a question of news volume; news outlets the world over were forced to furlough staff, merge teams and make widespread redundancies as advertising revenues collapsed.

However, amongst widespread print media decline, national broadsheets weathered the storm remarkably well as businesses and consumers alike turned to traditional media for expert opinion and advice. 2020 saw the launch of Times Radio and a host of new broadsheet-led podcasts, as editors sought to make the most of the public’s desire for expert commentary. With the launch of GBNews on the horizon and broadsheet subscriptions continuing to soar, this need for hard-hitting opinion and insight that informs the national conversation isn’t set to disappear any time soon.

This means that for businesses looking to communicate effectively during this period of national recovery, there are a few points to consider:

Clarity – and brevity – of message is essential

Many leaders are clear in their own mind about what they want to say, but often struggle when forced to articulate key messages to external audiences. Even those that feel confident in their messages to clients and internal stakeholders are often left flummoxed when faced with communicating the same thing to a journalist. Too often, spokespeople become embroiled in sector language and forget the need for simplicity when communicating key asks or messages externally. The reading age of most national papers is around 12 – this means distilling complex issues into a few easy-to-read sentences should be a crucial part of any communications plan.

Add to the conversation

To be respected as an industry expert in the media, your industry knowledge should be front and center of any communications plan. It is not enough to repeat the same lines as your competitor or industry journalist; thought leadership should be about leading the conversation, not following it. If you are not saying anything new, it’s probably not worth saying at all.

Back up your message

Once you know that what you’re saying is new, you should be thinking about the strength of your position. This means backing up strong opinions with evidence and data, and using language that resonates – in today’s media landscape, opinion sells, but it still needs to be evidenced to be authoritative.

Actions speak louder than words

If the past few months have taught communication professionals anything, it’s how plans can go spectacularly wrong if not backed up with action. You can have the best strategy in the world, but if this is proven to be nothing more than words, the reputational damage can be immense.

Communicate with purpose

A clear, robust and insightful message is a great starting point when it comes to simple brand awareness, but if you want to be moving the dial on influencer opinion, you need to be clear in the objective for communicating in the first place. Is it brand awareness, is it sales, or do you have a policy or regulatory objective you are trying to achieve? Being able to articulate at the start will inform the rest of your communications strategy.

As strategic communications professionals, our approach to campaigns is always rooted in this key ask, and then we build bespoke programmes from there, using a blend of political, media and influencer engagement to achieve your goals.

If you want to find out more, feel free to get in touch.

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Webinar – Business Restructuring: managing the aftermath of Covid-19

On Thursday 1st October 2020, WA Communications Director, Lee Findell, hosted a webinar exploring to plan and communicate during a business restructuring process.

The business support measures introduced by the government as we went into lockdown were unprecedented, but with these support schemes beginning to unwind over the Autumn, many businesses are facing difficult decisions on their future structure and are preparing for potentially difficult discussions with employees, suppliers, customers, regulators and policymakers.

Lee was joined by Greg Palfrey, National Head of Restructuring at Smith & Williamson, and Chair of the ICAEW Restructuring Insolvency & Advisory Group who provided advice for businesses that are looking to restructure and the top things they should be considering during this time.

Poppy Trowbridge, former Sky News businesses correspondent and special adviser to Phillip Hammond when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, provided insights on how businesses will need to communicate with government policymakers and the media as they undertake restructuring and change.

Finally, WA Communications’ Sarah Gullo provided some tips on effective communications during a business restructuring to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

 

Watch a recording of the webinar:

 

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Five tips for effective communications as we move out of lockdown

This article initially appeared in Real Deals.

 

The need for clear, effective communication has remained constant as the nation collectively figured out how to adjust to lockdown, and then consequently the more complicated process for coming out of lockdown and the move towards a new normal.

Good communications during such times of uncertainty and change is business critical. And the need for executive teams to carefully plan and manage the message they are giving employees, customers, suppliers, investors, government, media and other stakeholders will only continue to grow over the coming weeks as media scrutiny of business behaviour intensifies.

However, good communication doesn’t happen by chance. It is the result of taking the time to understand what your audience is thinking and feeling, of crafting clear messages, and adopting a tone and approach that resonates well with your audiences.

As the lockdown continues to ease, there will be a multitude of operational and business continuity decisions facing companies. What a business communicates and, importantly, how they communicate during this time is more critical than ever.

 

Five tips for businesses on how to plan effective communications as we move out of lockdown:

 

1. Consider your tone and nuance.

Your messaging must adapt with a Covid-19 lens. Communications that ignore the high levels of concern that still prevail as we move out of lockdown and the wide economic pain will not resonate with your staff, customers or the general public. Consider how you need to adjust your business’ core messages to ensure they are sensitive and appropriate to the environment you are now operating in.

2. Act now to protect your company’s reputation from future scrutiny.

The reckoning of how businesses have behaved and treated their staff during this time has already begun. Companies that have used government support throughout this time should also expect questions to be asked at some point about executive renumeration, especially if staff redundancies are to come. Objectively examine your business decisions and ask how they would come across if they were on the front page of a newspaper. Then communicate and act responsibly and sensitively now to ensure your reputation won’t be damaged in the coming
months because you ‘did the wrong thing’.

3. Prepare to communicate your new normal.

If your business has been or will be reshaped, it’s time to adjust what you say about yourself and articulate your new normal. Plans for business changes will require thoughtful preparation of an appropriate narrative, and you will need to develop key messages and a suite of materials to convey your message. For any significant change programmes that will be implemented, take the time to carefully plan how announcements will be made and the messages you need to convey to your staff and external stakeholders, including government, regulators and media.

4. Provide certainty where possible.

Your staff and customers are looking for certainty wherever they can find it at the moment. As much as possible, provide answers and as clear a picture of your future as possible. Rule things in and out wherever possible. Keep your staff in the loop as much as possible, including furloughed staff, and make sure you are actively listening to their questions and concerns. Your honesty and sincere efforts to regularly keep all employees up to date with the situation facing your business will be deeply appreciated.

5. Keep your communications natural and emotionally engaging.

Don’t rush back to polished, slick ways of communicating. People appreciate authenticity and honesty during times of great change, so keep your communications relational and personable. Your staff and customers will long remember how they were treated during this period. If you put the effort in to planning and executing good communications during this uncertain time, you can reap the rewards of gratitude and loyalty.

 

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5 ways communications will change after Covid-19

Covid-19 has enforced a huge impact on all our lives, professionally and personally, and has caused a huge shift in the way we communicate with each other.

The Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, summarised the change by saying that “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”. Looking beyond this incredible rapid change to the channels we are using to communicate, there has also been a noticeable shift in how businesses are talking to their staff, customers, investors and broader stakeholder community.

But how much of that has been a necessary response to the crisis, and what will endure as lockdown measures are eased?

We take a deeper dive into five things that have changed for good in the communications landscape:

 

1) How businesses communicate

The nature of the Covid-19 crisis has forced businesses and leaders to communicate frequently and openly to employees, customers, shareholders and suppliers.

We have quite literally seen into each other’s lives through a constant stream of video calling, a previously undreamt-of insight into our colleague’s personal lives.

This transparency has forced leaders to embrace authenticity, be more empathetic and available than they would have been ordinarily, which has been valued by employees.

Remote working is likely to endure for the foreseeable future, but even once things return to a more normal footing businesses and leaders would do well to maintain regular and authentic communications – their stakeholders will now be expecting it.

As the situation evolves, businesses are going to need to think strategically about how they manage their communications across a variety of scenarios and channels depending on what the recovery looks like.

Planning for this should be a top priority.

 

2) The value of being seen as a responsible business

Consumers, regulators, MPs, government, employees (both current and future) and the media have all been watching how businesses have behaved during this crisis. Select Committees are already holding inquiries into how some industries have behaved.

Business who have taken financial support from the government whilst paying out dividends or bonuses will be questioned; high executive pay will look even more unpalatable in an era with potentially record levels of unemployment.

This increased scrutiny will only increase the importance of corporate responsibility, or ESG (environmental, social and governance) as it is called in the investment world.

Businesses will need to be able to demonstrate their impact above and beyond profit – their tax strategy, social impact, climate strategy, supply chains, employment practices will all be under the microscope from a variety of stakeholders.

Companies that don’t have a positive story to tell on responsibility will need to develop one. And organisations who want government to listen will need to be able to show they have a positive, helpful and responsible impact on society.

 

3) Resilience, risk and crisis preparedness

Every organisation’s business continuity plans have been tested over the past few weeks and going forward more organisations will take risk planning seriously.

The new reality will demand it – every business will need to make judgement calls about acceptable levels of risk for their employees to return to work and how they operate over the next 18 months.

Reputational risks will be rife in the ‘new normal’, businesses will need make sure they are ready. Organisations without crisis communications plans and risk registers, regularly updated and reviewed as standard, will also put these in place so they are prepared for the next time.

Stakeholder lists need to be reviewed and updated, channel strategies and messaging refreshed, and tone of voice carefully adjusted.

Leaders should think about ensuring their media training is up to scratch, their knowledge of the messaging locked down.

Finally, businesses should make sure they appoint dedicated issues and crises team with clear roles and responsibilities assigned.

Some will already have all of this in place and will simply need to review and update, others will be starting from scratch.

In the ‘new normal’ not being prepared is not an option.

 

4) Government will be looking for solutions

The financial impact of Covid-19 for the public purse will be felt for years to come – bailout measures plus significant reductions to expected tax income will threaten the Government’s ambitious spending plans unveiled in the Budget just a few short weeks ago.

The government will be looking for creative ways to plug that shortfall, but where to target tax rises will be highly controversial.

To make matters worse, don’t forget this is a newly elected Government, elected by a swathe of new Conservative voters in traditional Labour seats who’s battle cry has been to “level up” Britain.

However, what is a headache for the Government is an opportunity for business.

Creative, bold and eye-catching policies, assuming they have minimal or even positive revenue implications, will be welcomed.

Anything that can be seen to contribute to the recovery from Covid-19 or creates jobs will be listened to.

It seems a way off now, but with an election in 2024 businesses should think about how they can help the government find a legacy that can they can take to the ballot box.

 

5) The return of the experts

During the 2016 Referendum, Michael Gove famously told Sky News that “people in this country have had enough of experts” and for much of the following years that appeared to have been prophetic.

Emotion, rather than evidence, has been in the ascendancy, with how they voted in the divisive 2016 ballot seen as the decisive motivating factor behind decision making.

Covid-19 has turned all of that on its head, the experts are back.

The Government’s entire communications message has been that our response is “led by scientists”, even to the extent of giving unprecedented airtime to the Chief Medical and Chief Scientific Officers, roles few in the general public would previously have been aware of.

In the post-Covid environment businesses will have an opportunity to offer their expertise to government and position themselves as authorities in areas where they have specialisms. We have seen how government is keen to work with businesses during the crisis through programmes like the Ventilator Challenge, and that mindset will continue through the recovery.

Where organisations can provide evidence bases, insight or add to the public discourse they should seize those opportunities, people will be listening.

 


 

As we move into Phase 2 of the Covid-19 crisis, there will be continued uncertainty to navigate we tentatively ease elements of the lockdown.

Some businesses will be aching to revert to normality as soon as possible, but things will not go back to the status quo – markets and attitudes will have evolved in response to the pandemic, and not all businesses will respond to their new environment.

As we discover what the ‘new normal’ looks like, those that succeed will have learnt some valuable lessons from the past few weeks, not just about video calling and remote working, but fundamental shifts in how they can and should approach communications.

Those that heed those lessons can flourish, for those that don’t there may be more challenges to come.

 

 

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How your business will need to communicate as the lockdown changes

There is no doubt it’s time for businesses to prepare for their second stage of communications in response to the Covid-19 lockdown.

The first phase of communications we all witnessed firsthand: the urgent rush to communicate changes in business practices to employees, customers and beyond, along with rapid government lobbying, in response to the lockdown.

But there is a shift happening now that the country is trying to define how and when lockdown will end – or continue to change shape over the coming months. This ‘new normal’ is going to require even more sensitivity in how businesses communicate their messages.

This crisis has impacted every business, whether for good or bad, and certainly every individual.

Communications that now ignore such a seismic change will be seen as inauthentic and simply won’t resonate with audiences. Remember, good communication always focuses on understanding your audience: and every business is guaranteed that their audience is thinking about Covid-19 and how it will continue to impact their personal life.

All businesses need to apply a new lens to their communications as a result.

This means the tone of voice and nuance of your messages are more important than ever. A tokenistic nod to Covid-19 in your communications won’t suffice.

It’s time to take a thoughtful look at how you can adapt your company’s messages to maturely acknowledge the worry that is in the community, along with the very real need for businesses to be moving ahead with their economic recovery.

Our recent webinar unpacked this change, exploring how businesses can practically manage their communications during this time.

We hope you find this advice useful as you take a look at your messages, the different scenarios you are planning for, the channels of communication you are using, and tips for communicating with your different audience groups.

It’s likely not going to be ’business as usual’ for some time still. So don’t make the mistake of ‘communications as usual’.

 

To watch a recording of WA’s recent webinar ‘After the Shock: Managing the Recovery’ please enter your details below:

 

 

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What ever happened to trust?

One of the oldest anecdotes that PR professionals roll out when media training senior executives is the impact of the Kennedy-Nixon Presidential debate in 1960. It was the first televised Presidential debate and while the radio audience called it a draw, the television audience decisively called it for the younger, healthier-looking and simply more televisual senator from Boston, shifting the tide of the election and ultimately the result.

Kennedy had looked and sounded presidential – in appearance, tone and content he had demonstrated he was made of the ‘right stuff’ and the public could put their trust in him.

Fast-forward nearly sixty years from Kennedy-Nixon, and we rolled onto last night and the latest edition in the long running series of candidate television debates, the Johnson-Corbyn match-up; and how things have changed.

While the pundits are divided on which candidate edged a close debate, they almost unanimously refer to the wider issue of whether either of the candidates met that most basic of expectation of voters by telling the truth.

The reason why media trainers reference the Kennedy-Nixon debate is to emphasise the need to come across as authentic, truthful and trustworthy. Messages are to be delivered clearly, backed up with evidence and proof points. Businesses and business-leaders rely on consumer trust and when this trust is proven to be unfounded, the company can face the sort of crisis that can destroy the brand.

Imagine for one moment if the CEO of a confectioners told a series of demonstrable falsehoods about their products and their rival’s products. Further still, imagine this CEO kept on saying them despite protests, so much so that a cottage industry of consumer groups was created in repudiating and pointing out this ‘fake news’. Then imagine that business deciding to set up a fake consumer group to attack their rivals or the evidence in front of them.

We have been here with the tobacco industry, who have been labelled as the pioneers of fake news, and other industries seeking to dissemble or cover up. Modern business practices, however, embrace engagement, transparency, clear values, fiscal prudence, demonstrable action and truthfulness, as they search for the goal of strong brand trust from consumers, policy makers and opinion formers.

The striking thing about this election campaign is the extraordinary decision of both major parties to ignore these fundamental building blocks of trust. When you have a situation of record levels of public doubt in the democratic system and our leaders, you don’t double down on the very things undermining that trust, you change your approach.

It is probably about time that our political parties looked to the playbook of modern business practices and corporate communications if they are to rebuild the trust between the public and our democracy.

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