Victoria Henson, Managing Partner, Peretti
Optimism… a word we have all needed to hear and say during this past year. A word that for some of us has given hope, and for others has kept us sane. Spreading positivity in challenging times is not only a breath of fresh air but a necessity – and communication is the tool.
In every crisis, communication has had a huge role to play, and this year has been no different. Brands have had to develop communication campaigns not only to encourage people to stay home during lockdowns 1, 2 and 3 but also to enthuse, entertain and engage with audiences throughout. We have been blown away by messages of love and reassurance, by charities and businesses that have provided support to the NHS, to front line workers and people in need. Whether it be through broadcast, print, digital or social coverage, this amazing spread of positivity is achieved through one mean – communication.
In times of uncertainty, brands automatically reevaluate their marketing strategies. Whilst many believe promoting luxury products does not resonate in a time of crisis, this year has proven that positive communication is in fact key – that with the combination of impressive creativity, the use of social and digital platforms, alongside the capability of working with like-minded partners, impactful results can still be very much achieved.
Friends of mine who are not in the PR sector have frequently asked me: how will you and the team promote travel when you can’t travel? How do you promote a restaurant when you can’t go there? How do you keep educating audiences on Champagne when you can no longer organise events and tastings? I’m sure many of you will have received similar comments. Despite business disruption, the surge in online traffic from homebound consumers presented new opportunities to our sector, to both captivate and engage.
The communications industry has had to think differently, adapt quickly and consciously create angles that speak to the times we live in – by producing relevant content that would still draw attention to media, whilst lightening up the mood.
Each one of you reading this article will have done exactly that, whilst staying passionate, motivated and driven to continuously generate quality results for your brand. And for that, you should pat yourselves on the back!
Creating relevant, inspirational content through storytelling:
In a constantly evolving world, the pandemic has enabled us to generate angles we would never really have promoted in usual times. Brands have gone above and beyond to remain accessible for their customers and deliver the same exceptional service. 2021 is no longer about survival, but revival.
The key here for brands was to diversify whilst staying true to their DNA. Strategies need to reflect brands’ unique craftsmanship and expertise, coupled with modern technology and engaging social platforms, to create value and inspire their consumers through storytelling, authenticity and emotional connection. And of course, sustainability as consumers’ purchasing behaviours become more eco-conscious.
Some of the travel angles that worked for us editorially were as simple as “design inspirations from your favourite suites worldwide”, “distinctive scents that transport you to different destinations” using candles from hotels, “TV shows that will transport you to your favourite places”, “recipes from your favourite restaurants”, and “how to guides” from the experts.
In addition, the media were extraordinarily supportive and open to ideas from the get-go. Whilst they were also remodeling their strategies, working hand in hand with the media has never been so crucial. Our relationships and the trust that we have built with the media over the years, proved vital in achieving impactful results for our clients. In turn, it enabled us to thankfully keep our entire team and hit our 2020 targets set pre-pandemic.
Within the first day of lockdown, we brainstormed new angles to keep our clients front of mind. The media feedback was incredible. Just one month into lockdown, we had already generated over 200 articles across our clients.
Thanks to all the digital tools we have available to us in this day and age, businesses have been able to stay connected with their consumers and have worked hard to try and make the experience as enjoyable as possible during COVID-19.
As a result, online consumption has doubled (according to Double Verify, a platform for digital media measurement); UK households also spent 50 % more on digital content, subscriptions and TV streaming services (according to the FT). Video content has taken centre stage, including the use of CGI – with sports brands and fitness coaches continuously creating video content to enable viewers to exercise at home; and fashion influencers noticing a huge increase in engagement since posting more video content.
Luxury is a lifestyle, an experience – from hosting virtual events and interviews where audiences could tune in, to creating video and social campaigns, brands could now provide another type of experience; one that enabled consumers seeking inspiration and guidance, to learn more from the experts with specialist knowledge.
As the Champagne Bureau, the promotional and educational arm of Comité Champagne, our aim is to promote wine tourism, as well as champagne service and consumption to attract younger consumers, without forgetting Champagne’s sustainability initiatives and firsts.
We’ve worked hard to put an optimistic spin on lockdown, not only to ensure we deliver on our targets, but also to provide valuable content to our target audience. Organising events and tastings is a huge part of what we did to achieve this goal. During the pandemic, we embraced the virtual world to host masterclass webinars and zoom tastings for influencers, media, on-trade and educators.
We created food pairing partnerships with restaurants highlighting specific themes including Champagne and Picnics, Champagne and South American Food and Champagne and Vegan Food. For each event, a select group of influencers received beautifully presented hampers delivered to their home in advance of an interactive tasting hosted by Francoise Peretti, spokesperson for the Champagne industry in the UK. Most recently we ran a hugely popular Science behind Champagne online event – the first in a series, diving deepinto the science, explaining exactly what it is about Champagne that makes it such an enticing and versatile partner for food.
There’s no doubt that it was also a cost-effective way of communicating and collaborating with strong partners and experts.
They say digital is the future – this past year has certainly given us some insight on what PR would look like in a digital world. However, given the hunger for human interaction, I’m not convinced we are totally ready for a digital-only world yet. A discussion for another time…
‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ – working with like-minded partners
We all have our competitors and that’s part of what makes a brand go from strength to strength. However, during times of crisis, we have one common denominator and working with your competitors can broaden the scope of content. We found this to be particularly true; and working side by side with other PR agencies provided us with even more content for media to include in roundups or wider features.
‘When one door closes, another one opens’
Our next step now that travel and hospitality have started opening up, is turning that inspirational content into a reality, highlighting brand USPs in an even more competitive landscape; as we see a huge surge in bookings. What we’re also seeing is that attendance is dropping on zoom, and there is certainly an element of screen fatigue as retail and hospitality have opened up. The craving for interaction is visible as people start meeting up in person. A shared feeling of relief to connect again.
We are definitely looking ahead to a new chapter in comms. We have seen the great impact positive communication has had on consumer engagement. Communication is not just about informing and persuading, it’s also about how it makes one feel. After all we are only human…