Communicating effectively in the age of isolation

We’ve never heard the word webinar so often.

A year ago, no-one could have predicted the position we’re now in. But what’s not so surprising is the paradigm shift in business communication caused by the pandemic.

Forced into new ways of working almost overnight, communications technology has been adopted and dumped by businesses faster than you can say “Zoom”.

The conference call, video call and webinar are tools of our global trade in marketing, communications, digital and events. They’re frankly inescapable at times. But all of a sudden, these technologies are in everyone’s toolkit.

The not ‘new’ normal

Our digital marketing team holds a daily stand-up via video conference. We’re delivering integrated marketing proposals by screenshare, consulting with clients to help them integrate more comms options with their websites. It’s definitely not new, but it’s certainly now normal.

Sure, we’ve had to cancel the odd photoshoot and client events have been delayed. But as these activities are suspended, there are other areas that thrive.

Social media marketing and general use has skyrocketed. Q1 2020 has seen a 22% increase in Instagram likes versus Q4 of 2019 (source: Campaign). This is an unprecedented spike.

This spike brings additional demand from brands for graphic design, infographics, company statements, website updates and new communications tools.

Websites are being tactically updated across the globe to include emergency comms and resources for clients.

Anyone with an inbox may have also noticed how busy e-mail marketers have been in the last month. Even if you hadn’t heard from their company for 6 years before that…

All this activity is telling us one thing. The conversation isn’t stopping, it’s just happening elsewhere.

Tools to bring us together

It has been well argued that isolation has created a sense of loss.

For all the benefits of home working, there are drawbacks. The immediacy with which we’ve been reset into a physical environment of professional solitude makes an impact on most.

It’s not just our immediate teams we’re missing. It’s no longer seeing our clients, our suppliers or our office neighbours each day or week.

Thankfully there are a bunch of tools at the marketers’ disposal (or anyone’s for that matter) to improve matters dramatically.

Running video calls

Disclaimer: You don’t need to video call someone every time you have a quick question.

But for anything more than a one liner, it’s pretty nice to see a friendly face and exchange ideas. For a creative agency like ours, collaboration and sharing ideas are the lifeblood and video calls help circulation no end.

Regular or impromptu, use video calls to replace any meeting that you’d usually have face to face.

There’s a ton of options, Teams, Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, Facetime, WhatsApp, it goes on and on and on. Pick one, or a bunch and dust off that webcam.

Holding webinars

One thing we’re particularly proud of at WSA is our regular internal training sessions. These cover all kinds of topics that come under the umbrella of marketing communications.

Whereas we’d usually be gathered in the boardroom to listen to a piece on perfecting the user experience, next time around, we’ll be sat in our home offices, spare rooms, kitchens and dining rooms with a brew; tuned in and ready to absorb all the wisdom our colleagues will impart. Lovely.

There’s more to this too. Training is on a lot of people’s minds right now and represents a significant business opportunity for all sides. We all have a chance to benefit and improve.

For organisations that are looking to continue delivering training, a webinar service integrated with a brand website is a smart investment and is fast to set up.

Live chat on the web

With office phones across the country down, live chat can decentralise customer service, enabling a personal service to be upheld.

What’s probably more important is the ability it has to still make human connections, even by digital transmission.

Again, a bolt on to a brand website, live chat solutions are ten a penny, so it’s often a case of picking one that will do what you need it to and having a quick word with your web developer about installing it and customising it to suit your brand identity.

Website chatbots

Maybe handling extra enquiries online or remotely is a bottleneck? Chatbots could be a solution and don’t for a moment think that they have to be devoid of personality.

Customised to adopt brand tone of voice and provide a useful customer experience, a website chatbot is a chance to serve customers, but also inject brand character.

A massive practical gain is the huge increase in capacity to handle simple enquiries, or with a bit of planning and expertise, more complex ones.

WSA have seen clients explore chatbots not only for commercial use, but also wellbeing and advisory services.

Social media content

We’ve already highlighted the elevated use of social media, and its power is being demonstrated right now too.

Grass roots fundraisers have gone national overnight, brands are using social to stay at the forefront of people’s minds and in the absence of physical meetups, community spirit is found thriving in online spaces.

The advice we’ve always given when it comes to social is to be part of the conversation and this applies now more than ever.

Your social media strategy matters. There’s a lot of noise and a lot of emotion and with these things comes a need to position your brand with authenticity but also differentiation. Talk about the things you know and the things that you do well. Do both with empathy and honesty.

Understanding the unique qualities of your brand is the start and when you do, you can set out to communicate with honesty and empathy.

It’s the perfect time to talk

On a personal level, many of us will have spent more time that ever on the phone, on video calls, emails, messaging and so on, simply to stay in contact with our loved ones.

For those working remotely, even more of the day is spent connected and in conversation.

If there’s one thing we all have right now with potential to enable change, it’s our communications.

Austin Walters
Austin Walters

Austin Walters is Operations Director at WSA The Communications Agency. He steers the agency’s digital offering and works with all departments and marketing disciplines. Austin writes about business modernisation, management, sales and digital marketing. A young son, a busy job and social life mean that leisure time can be hard to come by, but he spends it keeping active and can often be found running, hiking, surfing or bending into shapes.

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