Communication in the time of Covid-19 – by Rahul Nagpal

Rahul Nagpal is partner and CEO at Group Partnership

By Rahul Nagpal, partner and CEO at Group Partnership

Rahul Nagpal, partner and CEO at Group Partnership

There is a beginning, so it stands to reason that there must be an end. When I say end, I mean the day when a vaccine will be created and made available to the world at large. Depending on what your news feed of choice is, we are looking at anywhere between 12 to 18 months for it to get to us. 

We are now living in between the beginning and end, in the ‘middle’, if you will. So, what is the human race going to do in this middle? 

Apart from embracing new gear like the ever-elusive face mask, you will also go through shifts in the conscious and unconscious. In the conscious world you will continue to be mindful of your redeveloped personal and home hygiene habits, while social distancing will continue to rule your decision making in the external world. Humanity will be skeptical of closed spaces. The likes of cinemas, restaurants, shopping malls, hotels and planes will be avoided unless necessary. In the unconscious realm, depending on where you are on your personal journey, you will probably have more questions than answers. This may well be an added struggle to your journey.

On the work front, you might either continue with a new-found love of WFH or be a reluctant WFO (work from office) person. Or maybe a bit of both. Either way, if you are not amongst the millions who have lost their jobs due to the virus, I am sure you will not be complaining.

So, how will businesses adapt to this middle? 

In my view, this middle will have 2 phases. Let us call phase 1 the ‘re-start phase’ and phase 2  the ‘run phase’. 

Phase 1 is happening now. It is a period of accepting that this is our new temporary reality and questioning how best to kickstart the engine when the wheels haven’t turned for the last couple of months. Most businesses I know are reevaluating all aspects of their organisations, no part of the puzzle is being left out. I reckon that this process will finish sometime in Q2 of 2020. 

Phase 2, the run phase, will start in Q3 of 2020. This phase will be all about building on and learning from the re-start phase. Here, businesses will build on their successes and learn from their failures. Today, each business is in the same situation, but going forward, those who innovate and develop a more compelling buying and selling eco-system will lead the pack and have a greater share of this ever-evolving pie. 

So, how do communication agencies like ours adapt to this middle?  

1.     Brand vs business: Our clients are hurting and they are looking for ideas for both the re-start phase and the run phase. And we are good at ideas, right? While we continue to solve communication issues, we should make sure to shift focus to the business side of things.

2.     Old Consumer vs new mindset: While businesses get to grips with their new profit and loss realities, remind them to not abandon their consumers. The brand relationship means something to the consumer and disappearing on them would not be a very clever thing to do. Imagine if a friend that you met regularly suddenly stopped making time for you. Not cool, I would argue.

3.     The ‘then’ vs ‘now’ of messaging: While you continue to talk to your consumer, you need to look at your approach to messaging. What will need to change is the tone and context. Be sensitive, be empathetic. Do not change your position, just adapt the manifestation of it. There are some great examples to learn from. Coke, Nike, Emirates are amongst many that being both sensitive & brand relevant.

4.     Delivery channels: The data clearly shows we are now more than ever living virtually. This is also amongst the cheapest mediums for communication so don’t hold back, keep that conversation going.

If you as an Agency invest in helping clients play the game in the middle, you would be remembered being part of the team that helped kickstarting the engine all over again — this ultimately will be the trophy you take home when all this is finally over.