What a pandemic means for your company communication

For years we’ve been talking about digital disruption and the effect that it is having on how we work and communicate with our staff and customers. And thank goodness for those disruptions. Where would we be now if we didn’t have the internet, social media and other digital technologies?

But the greatest disruption of our time has come from elsewhere. In 2015 during a TED talk, Bill Gates predicted that the greatest threat to humanity would be an epidemic. And here we are, five years later staring down the barrel of that gun.

Flatten the curve

How long will it take South Africa to flatten the pandemic curve? It is uncertain. How long will it take to flatten the curve globally? Again, this is unknown. What is known is that one of the key ways to help flatten the curve is physical distancing. It seems likely that physical distancing will continue for some time to come possibly up to six months.

The effect of this on the global economy will be massive. Maintaining clear and concise communication during this period is going to be critical to weathering the looming global economic impact the pandemic is certainly going to have. Marketing and communications are usually the first areas a business cuts back on during economic uncertainty. But not maintaining communication could be a mistake with dire long-term consequences. It could lead to a global shake-up of companies and industries the likes of which we cannot hope to predict.

Digital technologies

Fortunately, digital technologies have given us new ways to communicate with our staff and customers. From the internet and social media as the means of distribution, through to blog posts, video content, podcasts and the like as the medium of that content. Blog and social media posts will continue, as will podcasts. Podcasts have been steadily rising over the past few years and will continue to do so.

The immediate future of video is less obvious. Zoom interviews, vlogs and webcasts can all be maintained during physical distancing. But what’s going to happen to other types of video marketing and communications?

The future of video

In a study by international production company Wyzowl conducted at the end of 2019, they found that 85% of companies were using video as a marketing tool. This ranges from high-end television commercials through to social media clips and covers all types of video content from live-action through to animation. The prevalence and power of video are obvious, but what isn’t so obvious is how this will continue in the months to come.

The study found that the most popular types of videos were explainer videos (72%), presentation videos (49%), testimonial videos (48%), sales videos (42%) and video ads (42%). Some of these will still be possible using phones or webcams at home, but filming original content requiring a crew on location is going to be hugely restricted.

Animation as a solution

One solution is animation. From commercials to explainer videos, the rise of animation in communications over the past two decades is well documented. Producing animated content like explainer videos with a remote team will certainly be possible. The study found that 96% of people have watched an explainer video to learn about a product or service. Animation can also be used to communicate key messages to staff working remotely using email, WhatsApp or private networks such as the company intranet or Facebook groups.

Physical distancing leads to more distraction

A challenge for marketing professionals with physical distancing is that the online world is going to become even more congested than it was pre-Covid-19. This means your audience is going to be even more distracted than before. Finding novel ways to stand out and add a voice and personality to your communication is going to be critical. A company or brand spokesperson or a mascot have been traditional ways to do this. Today the founder is often the spokesperson or thought leader for the business. Or they represent their personal brand. This can continue with physical distancing, but it is not a solution for all companies. Not all founders are good on camera and it doesn’t work for large companies or other non-personal brands.

Animated spokesperson

Using an animated spokesperson is one solution. The content can be produced remotely and directed at either staff or customers. It gives the communication a personality allowing it the best chance of cutting through the noise and engaging with its intended audience. It also adds emotion to communication which is the underlying ingredient to connection and action.

We often speak of buyer personas, but what of brand personas? What is the personality of your brand or business and how are you communicating it? See this infographic on how to create a brand persona. It is an important way to differentiate your company or brand. An animated spokesperson is a representation of your brand persona and gives your communication a voice and personality.

Take action now

Just like swift and decisive action is required to control an epidemic, so too is it required for companies to manage their communications. Making sure they maintain their communications and break through the noise during this period could be the difference between surviving this storm or not.

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In the spirit of Saturday morning cartoons, we provide fun and interesting insights into the principles of storytelling for business communication.

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Date: 16 or 30 September 2020 at 9am