FROM “NEW NORMAL” TO “NEXT NORMAL” NAVIGATING EXTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS AMIDST COVID-19 Businesses have the opportunity to emerge in a stronger position and deepen relationships with customers and trading partners. They can build a company that is more fit for purpose in the world ahead. THE NEW NORMAL With market failure and economic slowdown, brands are focusing efforts on business continuity while supporting local governments in COVID-19 management. Beyond business as usual, adapting to this new reality dictates an overhaul of existing communications protocols. Companies must adjust to the new editorial order or risk being left behind. KEY TAKEAWAYS: THE REALITIES OF TODAY’S LANDSCAPE 01 A surge in media engagement Lockdowns and Circuit breakers have led to a surge in at-home media consumption. Journalists have switched beats to dedicate more manpower to COVID-19 coverage and editorial teams, whether broadcast, print, or digital, they have now found themselves exclusively covering stories on the pandemic’s impact. 02 Strike a balance between relevance and empathy While newsrooms may soon experience news fatigue from COVID-19-related coverage, brands must be empathetic to current consumer priorities. Highlighting new products or sales when the government announces an influx in cases or an economic stimulus package is out of touch and ill-advised. 03 Do not market to fear Despite seeing an uptick in sales, brands such as Lysol and Clorox have steered clear of mentioning COVID-19 in their marketing messages, instead churning out objective, educational content on the importance of disinfecting. When marketing brands or products, particularly those of relevance during this period, be pragmatic and consider what would be of real value to your audience. KEY TAKEAWAYS: THE REALITIES OF TODAY’S LANDSCAPE 04 Acknowledge the power of your platform To capitalise on the spirit of the community, many gaming companies have joined the World Health Organisation’s #PlayApartTogether campaign. Rather than being seen as having profited from the crisis, these companies have acknowledged the innate ability that their platforms have to bring people together while remaining authentic to the nature of their business. While a number of leading research groups, tech companies, and universities have come together through the Open COVID Pledge to make their intellectual property available for use in ending and minimising the impact of the pandemic 05 Practice intersectionality and cultural-political sensibility When launching CSR initiatives, keep it authentic to the brand and the business. Find the intersection between your company’s mission/vision, brand, distribution channels, and where the national and public health needs are. With anxieties and tensions high, it is more important than ever to be mindful of potential sensitivities. Approach affiliations with certain political and even charitable organisations with caution as these have the potential to harm trust which is essential during this time. 06 Be authentic Consumers are looking to beloved brands, celebrities, influencers, and other KOLs for greater authenticity. Rather than issuing a press statement, Razer CEO Tan Min-Liang took to Facebook to reflect on the impact of the pandemic and Razer’s pledge to produce 1 million surgical masks. Since then, Razer collaborated with local nightclub Zouk on its cloud clubbing series to support local DJs amid the shutdown of entertainment venues. THE NEXT NORMAL Leading firms will view the current situation as a dress rehearsal for a post-pandemic world, the next normal. While many will continue to question what the “day after” will look like, the companies who lead are those who are unafraid to innovate. If we act today, we will be stronger tomorrow. As we look back on the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses will find that it has been responsible for teaching them how to future-proof their operations, approaches, and tactics. Within an increasingly interconnected globalised environment, COVID-19 has highlighted the full benefits that digital enhancements can offer—virtual services have enabled people to remain connected and conduct business online, both efficiently and securely. From reckoning to reinventing, companies must envision a positive view of 2020 2.0. Companies that anticipate the realities of this next normal will be those who underwrite the new rules, understanding new needs and demands. More than anything, vision will be needed and it will be great leaders and business who will come to the fore.