3 best practices you need to know for brand communications in times of uncertainty
By Marco D’Angelo
If someone had told me at the beginning of March that our world would change dramatically within a month, I would never have believed it.
At the time, it seemed like I had everything figured out. I was going to return from Paris Fashion Week and finally launch my new firm. From day one, I’ve been lucky enough to have the support of an esteemed group of editors, executives, and designers who championed my ambitions and cheered me on. There was no doubt—the time was right.
Fast-forward to this week, and it feels as if our lives have been turned upside down. A sense of uncertainty looms over us, and the not-knowing is unsettling. We are advised—in some states, mandated—to stay home, making isolation the new normal. People panic about the availability of food and supplies. Some hoard or otherwise misbehave. It is nothing short of surreal.
I began to think about how I am going to sustain my newly established venture. (As I type this, I received a phone call from a client asking to put our contract on hold.) But, of course, I am not alone. Every business out there is trying to make sense of it all. And together we scramble, struggling to find alternative ways to keep going.
A lot has to be done in the coming months to be prepared for the second wave, and it is critically important to establish new ways of communicating, positioning, and selling. Not every fashion brand is fortunate enough to have a PR agency to guide them through the turmoil. Since adapting is key, here’s a brief primer on what I believe will work and what won’t.
Striking the Right Tone
Wherever you are located—whatever the scope of your business—it is imperative that you listen to your community. Now is the time to connect with your audience and find new ways to inspire them. In today’s social media environment, multiple platforms make it easy to reach your followers, so communicating your message is relatively straightforward.
Let your audience know you are thinking of them and set the tone for the upcoming weeks. Be clear about what you believe and how you’re offering help. Can you join the coalition of factories to make respirator masks? If you’re creating fragrances in a lab, can you also make hand sanitizer? Will you be donating to a charitable organization? Are you offering a percentage discount on your entire site?
You have to take smart action—paired with smart communication. By doing so, you’ll remain authentic to your vision. We can all do our part, even if it means taking small steps. When this is over, the consumer will remember the stance you took when things got rough.
Creative Thinking vs. Pushing Product
Your new sneakers. Your It bag. Your upcoming collaborations. In the current climate of uncertainty, none of these is a legitimate way to get your consumers’ attention. A possible solution is to create a different narrative for your brand. If you are a designer sheltering in place, find a way to chat live with your audience. Tell them what you’re working on. Share what you like to do when you’re not working. Show them your home/work space. If you’re a great cook, set up a video of you at work in the kitchen. If you’re skilled at arranging flowers, create an online tutorial.
Share these skills—and sneak peaks at your life—with your followers who are quarantined at home. Now more than ever, the audience connects with the person behind the brand. Be creative and offer a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes. Give them a virtual experience they wouldn’t normally be privy to. Ultimately, this intimate sharing will build loyalty.
Make sure that whatever you offer to intrigue and stimulate you audience is appropriate. If, for example, you are posting about free delivery, it will likely be well received. If, on the other hand, you’re touting a $4,000 handbag, it’s probably not the time.
Loyalty to Your Team
Sadly, it is not a matter of if, but when, someone you work with will test positive for COVID-19. In the light of this reality, this is a good time for you to reinforce positive employment engagement. After all, your employees are as important as your consumers. They want to know that you will take good care of them at this time of crisis. They need to know that they will be respected and treated well no matter what happens.
Find ways to express your company’s values to your team. If your brand is doing something to help ease the burden of isolation, talk it up. If one of your employees has done something to help others in their community, let everyone know about it. Encourage them to take a proactive stance to do whatever they can to flatten the curve of the pandemic—even if that means simply taking necessary precautions themselves.
If you’re a CEO or a designer, this is the time to reach out to your employees—sincerely, compassionately, and often—to ensure them that they are a priority.
Whether we like it or not, change is inevitable. The most effective means of coping with it is to accept, reflect, and be creative. We must find ways to reset—to push ourselves to new customs and disciplines.
Marco D’Angelo is the founder of Platform PR, Marco D’Angelo is a recognized communications executive with extensive knowledge of the fashion, luxury, and lifestyle-related industries. He is consistently retained by top consumer brands to identify growth and positioning strategies, and he has been associated with many noteworthy brand launches. He regularly advises a distinguished roster of clients who rely on him as a strategic communications partner and counsel.
Prior to founding PLATFORM PR, D’Angelo was the senior director of communications for leading fashion agency KCD. In that capacity, he oversaw media relations, events, and launch initiatives in the US for luxury brands including Balmain, AMIRI, Brioni, AMI, Coach, Fausto Puglisi, PUMA, Tommy Hilfiger, and Tory Burch. His prior experience includes senior director of PR and events at HL Group, as well as PR senior management positions at Bottega Veneta and Catherine Malandrino. He launched his career in communications at the international Montage Hotels, where he managed special events and VIPs.