Inflation is skyrocketing. Economies around the world are stalling. And on top of all this – we have a war in Europe. However you look at it, these are challenging times. Many people feel anxious about money, health, and their future; people are increasingly in a state of chronic stress because they face multiple crises.
When stressed, we react differently to communication. We can easily meet messages with apathy or denial. What is more, our social world has changed a lot. Loneliness, isolation, confrontation, lack of community, and unity have all become normalized.
In this state, many people fall into social bubbles and information streams that are incredibly narrow and, at times, toxic. Most bubbles are very far apart, especially when it comes to technological literacy, economic prosperity, access to help and support, and countless other aspects.
For many years, agencies categorized their audiences using demographic and psychographic characteristics. They used frameworks, such as “personas,” describing customers’ interests, age, income, location, preferred media, and how they act in certain situations.
But today, “personas” increasingly don’t fit reality.
People in social bubbles also aren’t linked by age, income, or place of residence. They are defined by their problems, points of view, and beliefs.
As communication professionals, we must find those bubbles, understand them, and not only listen but participate in them.
How should brands and corporations participate in the conversation when people are sensitive and divided?
Three words: They should be tasteful, positive, and trustworthy.
Economic matters are very sensitive. They touch on people’s jobs and savings. Rule number one: Don’t be flashy or inconsiderate. Avoid gimmicks or superficial solidarity. Customers will see through it and accuse you of being out of touch. This is called being tasteful.
A positive outlook wins every time. Yes, clients are facing challenging conditions. Yes, businesses are hurting. But a can-do attitude, focusing on success no matter the market conditions, always shines through. Ensure your communication is upbeat. When swamped with negative information, we live in an overload of information (predominantly negative), and we want to see things that make us happy or even make us laugh.
In difficult times, insecurity and mistrust are high. When you have to communicate in challenging times, build relationships by offering advice and support. What does it mean? – Listening more than talking, helping people avoid potential traps, educating them on new issues and outcomes, and above all, delivering on your promises.
At the end of the day – in these times of information overload – ACTIONS make a difference, not words.
I talk more about communication in challenging times on this week’s episode of PRGNPresents. When forming a PR strategy, it is crucial to avoid the question, “what will we talk about?” Instead, start with the question, “what are we going to do?” Once you establish this, communication will fall into place.
When good deeds are real and make a difference, telling stories is not difficult.
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