With an increasing number of industries and companies impacted from the coronavirus pandemic, businesses, marketing teams and PRs are working hard to communicate effectively with their target audiences.
But new research, commissioned by Unhooked Communications, shows that businesses that get their comms wrong during the pandemic might not only lose trust and sales, but risk people boycotting their brand altogether.
On the other hand, the statistics show consumers are much more likely to look favourably on those businesses that are able to share trustworthy, helpful, or uplifting news and content in relation to coronavirus.
Here, we look at the Covid-19 communications data to see what businesses and marketing teams are getting wrong and right. The coronavirus marketing and content statistics are followed by advice for businesses and marketing teams to consider when approaching their PR and comms during the global coronavirus crisis.
You can use any information or data from this report, as long as you credit Unhooked Communications and add a follow link back to the source - weareunhooked.com/covid-19-comms-data.
The research, which questioned 2000 people across the UK, was carried out 25-27 March 2020.
Coronavirus PR and comms data overview
Is there too much Covid-19 comms?
According to the research, a third (32 per cent) of the UK feel they have received “too much” or “far too much” content and information from businesses relating to coronavirus.
A quarter (23 per cent) find the level of communications from businesses overwhelming, a fifth said its worrying, and one in ten are annoyed by businesses contacting them in the current climate.
Businesses getting their communications wrong during the pandemic may face disastrous consequences. According to the survey, more than one in ten people have seen businesses sharing content or information in such a way that has made them boycott them, suggesting six million people across the UK could be stopping their spend with some companies.
Men are more likely to stop giving businesses their custom than women, with 14 per cent saying they’d boycotted a business, compared to 9 per cent of women.
People aged between 25 and 34 are most likely to boycott a business because of getting their Covid-19 comms wrong (20 per cent), followed by 35-44 year olds (19 per cent), 18-24 year olds (14 per cent). Those aged over 55 and over were the least likely to boycott a company (5 per cent), and 9 per cent of 45-54 year olds said they would stop buying products or services from a business.
One in ten people have seen businesses they don’t trust sharing information they’re not sure is accurate. On top of this, 28 per cent of consumers have received Covid-19 comms from businesses they don’t remember signing up to or haven’t heard from in a long time, raising questions about whether businesses are complying to GDPR legislation in a bid to reconnect with their databases.
A number of respondents said they would rather receive no communications from businesses relating to coronavirus, while others only want to get information from the NHS or the government.
Getting Covid-19 PR and comms right
However, it's not all doom and gloom for businesses when it comes to their Covid-19 PR and comms.
Looking at the positives, 61 per cent think businesses are getting the level of Covid-19 comms right; 28 per cent said they were thankful for business’ content, and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) said they felt positive.
Over a third (36 per cent) have seen businesses they trust sharing useful information, and over a fifth (23 per cent) have seen businesses sharing thoughtful or good news, which made them feel more positive.
The research found the most popular channel for consumers to receive information from businesses relating to Covid-19 was email, which was the preferred choice for 37 per cent of respondents. This was followed by the media, which 30 per cent said was their preferred channel to access information.
Only 6 per cent of respondents said they liked to get the information from social media. This was followed by accessing information directly from businesses’ website (5 per cent), text or instant message (4 per cent), direct physical mail (2 per cent), word of mouth from family and friends (2 per cent), and phone (2 per cent). One in ten people had no preferred channel of communications.
What should businesses consider for coronavirus PR and marketing?
Looking at the coronavirus communications research, it's clear to see that consumers are feeling overwhelmed with the level of Covid-19 communications from businesses. And there's a real risk that if businesses get their PR and marketing wrong during the global pandemic, they could damage their reputation, lose trust, and cause a backlash from the public.
So what should businesses consider for their coronavirus PR and marketing to get it right?
Coronavirus PR and communications video
This video first appeared on PR Unlocked, which is an online PR training course developed by Unhooked Communications' MD, Claire Gamble.
Coronavirus PR and comms checklist
Too many businesses are quick to send out Covid-19 PR and communications without thinking about their PR strategy. What are you trying to achieve? What is your business’ stance and position? What is your business doing? Who do you need to communicate with? What are the best channels to use? How will you measure your success?
There are some great examples of businesses taking positive action during these times, giving them genuinely positive Covid-19 PR. But don't do something for the sake of it. When looking at what your business can do in response to coronavirus, make sure you’re putting people first, not profit, otherwise it is likely to backfire.
If you have bad news, manage it. Whether redundancies, closures or unfulfilled orders, some businesses will unfortunately come into difficulties. But as with any crisis comms, businesses and marketing teams need to consider how and what they communicate. And as before, always put people first, show empathy and offer support.
Share it! There is a lot of uncertainty, worry and confusion from consumers and businesses. Companies and organisations that have good news to share are likely to get a positive reaction from their target audience. But remain sympathetic to the current situation and don't go out with any campaigns that could offend or upset.
Don’t create coronavirus marketing and comms for the sake of it. There is a lot of noise from businesses and marketing teams at the moment and as our Covid-19 marketing data shows, you run the risk of annoying or overwhelming people. Make sure any coronavirus communications are relevant and you share it to the right people through the most effective channels. This should all be considered as part of your PR strategy.
Yes, businesses and marketing teams need to consider their immediate response to coronavirus. But in order to survive the global pandemic and come out the other side as stable as possible, they need to look ahead. Businesses will be reviewing and updating their commercial strategies and goals for the coming year, and their PR and marketing strategies need to be aligned to support this long-term success.
Final Covid-19 comms thoughts
A lot of businesses are understandably looking at how they’re communicating with their customers during the global coronavirus crisis. But while consumers are responding positively to those who take the time to get their approach right, businesses that have a knee-jerk reaction are finding themselves in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
It’s great to see that helpful content and good news is helping people to feel more positive in these uncertain times. But there’s a risk that some businesses could be contributing to the panic and uncertainty. With 24/7 rolling news, social media and the situation changing constantly, businesses need to consider whether they really need to add to the noise out there.
Before sending out comms, businesses should assess their operations first and make sure they’re doing everything they possibly can to protect and support their employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. If they don’t, any communications they send out – even with the best of intentions – could backfire. If they do have relevant and necessary information to send out, they need to consider what and how they communicate this.
Need PR and comms support?
Contact Unhooked Communications to see how we can support with developing your PR and communications strategy, crisis communications plans, PR campaigns, and day-to-day PR support.