COVID confusion syndrome

I admit it. I have it. I’m a sufferer. So much so, I no longer know if I should be eating in or drinking out to keep helping out or abandoning food altogether and dosing myself up on the nutrient loaded, virus busting, immunity boosting food supplements that are flooding my social media. Talk about jumping on the bandwagon and capitalising on people’s insecurities. I can’t work out if this is genius or sly, unethical marketing.

I also have no idea if I can visit my mum, the pub, the zoo, the cinema or if I’m allowed to get my legs waxed but not my eyebrows.  And I’m totally baffled why one of my children is in 2-week isolation (deep joy – working and home schooling again said no parent ever!) while the other can still go. Surely I’m not the only one who needs a Pandemic PA to give me a daily bulletin – a do’s and don’ts list.  A concise summary of should nots and must nots.

A tuned-in content creator could flood my social media with this useful list? And savyy marketeers could use outdoor media to promote it on bus shelters, train stations, bus rears, streetliners, taxi sides and ablaze it across every 48 sheet or digital billboard available. Then we’d all be in the know.

We’d all get the rule of six. We’d get if it applied to indoors or outdoors or both. We’d understand if outdoors means our garden or the local park. We’d all feel confident booking a table for six from two households without the fear of being inadvertently ‘caught out’. We could all happily plan our half term staycation or arrange to visit family from a different region or go to the pub with a friend from a bubble, safe in the knowledge that we were being good, law abiding citizens. Simple pleasures which we once took for granted now need planning with military precision. And hours of research.

Someone needs to sort out the comms so that COVID confusion syndrome, if not COVID itself can be cured.

Communication let me down

And I’m left here. Like Spandau Ballet, I’m confused and a bit bewildered. In the world of PR and Marketing, informed and accurate communication is key. And loyalty is everything.

That’s why I find the lack of COVID clarity so frustrating. And the mixed messages so annoying. I’m a planner. I’m a wife. I’m a mum.  So being organised, forward-planning, spinning plates, multi-tasking and juggling information overload is in my DNA. I can handle my four-year olds tantrums about why she can’t keep a pet snail in her bedroom.  I can manage my husband’s inability to remember what time staggered school time starts and ends.

But COVID comms have defeated me.

Keep your COVID cohort converts

Consumers have become more confident switching brands and trying new products and services during this pandemic.

As COVID-19 feels like it’s here to stay for the foreseeable, brands and business will have to up their game in their comms strategy and content generation if they are to keep their new COVID cohorts happy and their old customers loyal.

As lockdown forced many consumers online, they shopped with shops that shouted loudest about what they wanted to hear. They used brands that made themselves addictive, available and accessible. They switched to businesses that communicated with sincerity and empathy to our new-found situation.

Being forced to work from home forced the absence of habit. From making us more creative in the kitchen, trying out new sports or tapping into wellbeing apps to being more attentive to our homes, becoming more inventive with kids entertainment and being hugely appreciative of our gardens, neighbours, local shops and open spaces. And a new-found appreciation for businesses that made our lockdown lives that little bit easier.

While many businesses have been forced into long-term hibernation or extinction as a result of lockdown, others have welcomed a swell of new customers.

With many ‘autopilot choices’ no longer available, consumers have been forced to buy substitute brands, try new services or introduce new products into their brand repertoire. I’m guilty of being enticed into the world of Hello Fresh and Gousto home meal deliveries – driven by the lack of inspiration and motivation to prepare 3 meals a day, 7 days a week when the pubs, cafes and restaurants were shut. Will I continue to use their services when a COVID cure is found? That remains to be seen. That will depend on the power of their persuasive PR and compelling ‘come back’ comms.

Working from home also means that communicating with colleagues and clients via Zoom and Teams has replaced coffee machine chats, boardroom brainstorms and business lunches. Dynamic storyboards delivered by conf-call have replaced the theatre of face-to-face creative presentations. And work do’s have become a virtual wine tasting or an online quiz. Who would have believed that would be a thing a year ago? Expect the unexpected is the new norm.

While we continue to suffer from COVID and COVID confusion syndrome, baffling and blindsiding brand communications won’t cut it.

Consumer and B2B PR and Marketing campaigns need to be more authentic, trustworthy and timely than ever before. Content needs to be accurate, honest and empathetic.

We don’t work in politics after all.

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