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PR Specialist: Here's how you should rethink your branding efforts

Handling your company’s communication requires thoughtful navigation. How can companies maintain relevance, at the same time as staying true to their core values?


Brand communications during unprecedented times

The digital sphere is full of pitfalls these days, and handling your company’s communication requires thoughtful navigation. How can companies maintain relevance, at the same time as staying true to their core values?

With over 12 years in the public relations sector, Hanne Kjærnes has been doing marketing communications for some of Norway’s strongest brands. For the past two years, she has been leading the communications activities at Vipps AS, being part of a cross-functional team responsible for marketing, branding and employer branding.

Hanne shares her thoughts with Equality Check on how brands should position their communication efforts these days.

During these extraordinary times, how should one go about sustaining a company brand?

It is important to understand the balance in your communication, and constantly evaluate what your users or customers need. What is helpful and of the essence, and what is more suitable for later. It is important to have a presence where and when it is relevant, but see the perspective of your customer base and always be empathic. Also, ensure that your communication is still on brand, and maintain activities that still build a relationship with your brand.

Should organizations rethink their branding efforts to make it more relevant? How?

This is definitely the time where you should think about the relevance of your communication, and not about tactical messages urging for sales and spending. But we still see a lot of examples of smart communications around services people need in this situation and companies who have adapted their services to meet their customer’s needs digitally instead. Such smartness is communicable and positive.

How much should change, and for how long?

As we don’t know how long the situation will stay as it is, keep ongoing discussions and try to think a few months ahead.

It seems as companies are shifting their approach from an “I” to “we”, focusing more of their efforts supporting the community. What are your thoughts on this?

Many companies have the opportunity to help during these times, both with larger and smaller efforts. Everything can count. But if you choose to take this approach, make sure it is genuine, that you are committed and have evaluated your messages thoroughly. For many companies, how to survive the crisis is much more important than how to communicate, so always have an empathic approach and focus on the needs of your target audience – not your own.

With an exceptionally saturated social media and media-landscape, what can companies do to position themselves?

Plan and prioritize your messages wisely, and cut what isn’t necessary to avoid overloading your social media channels.

There are several potential pitfalls when adjusting corporate communications during a crisis. How should companies stay clear of these?

Time can be of the essence, but don’t be afraid to take a bit of extra time to make sure you are certain of your messages. As a rule, we always have two sets of eyes going through everything we communicate, but now we have adjusted to three sets of eyes instead. There are so many perspectives and situations you have to be aware of. It is also important to think in a long-term perspective, as we don’t know how long this situation will last. “Never” and “always” are words we avoid, as the times are uncertain.

Also, use your network as sparring partners, and discuss how to handle challenges. Sharing experiences and learning from others has never been more important than now. I am so impressed by the willingness to share ideas and thoughts openly.

More than ever, it is important to focus on business as usual in order to maintain a sustainable business, but we have seen some less than perfect attempts by brands trying to profit from the crisis. What is the balance here, and how should you communicate or sell a product or service without appearing cynical?

People are more skeptical than ever, and it can easily backfire if you try to profit from the crisis if your brand doesn’t play a natural and relevant role. Then, evaluate the needs of the consumers first, is this something that is essential now?

Do you have any examples of brands that have done this particularly well?

As we work closely with Norwegian retailers and grocery stores, I have been really impressed by their efforts in the last weeks. Both Kolonial and Rema 1000 have been paving the way, being proactive, clear and most important of all: focusing on their employees and the amazing job they do these days.

Do you have some final advice to companies concerning how they should position their branding and communications efforts these days?

This is the time to show the magic of collaboration. How can we work smarter internally to achieve more with less, and can we work together with other brands and companies. Focus more on listening, share and discuss ideas with others – it has never been more important.

How is the corona-crisis affecting equality and diversity? Spend 2 minutes and get instant feedback on what others are saying. NOTE: Survey is in Norwegian.

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