The COVID-19 pandemic may go down as the biggest disrupter of our century. Its ramifications precipitated an unprecedented impact on national economies, forcing the implementation of new digital communications strategies almost overnight.
Millions of people became dependent on digital technology to handle all their personal and professional tasks. Seminars, conferences, and trade shows were scrapped to adhere to social distancing requirements. Political rallies that typically boost voter turnout and fundraising were canceled.
The day’s challenge became how to maintain human-driven relationships when the face-to-face experience had to go online.
Accelerating the Pace of Digital Communications Development
The new COVID reality didn’t allow for a gradual roll-out of new digital communications technologies. Companies hoping to compete, grow, and remain relevant in a rapidly changing world had to adapt quickly. The new normal demanded an accelerated development of technologies to stay connected to audiences.
Twilio, a cloud-based messaging platform, found that the cessation of face-to-face interactions accelerated digital communication strategies by six years. Their COVID-19 Digital Engagement Report states that “92% of respondents say that transforming communications is extremely or very critical to address current business challenges.”
The Big Reset to Digital Communications Strategies
The pivot to digital communications platforms swept across the globe.
- Video-based communications technologies became crucial for everyone, from corporations to governments, hospitals, and educational institutions. Anyone who hadn’t heard of Zoom before is now well-versed in this digital technology.
- Cloud platforms had to rise to the challenge of ensuring the security and reliability of digital communications.
- Public health leaders turned to digital communication tools to help them deliver messages critical to maintaining public safety.
- Social media, mobile apps, cloud computing, and analytics have been deployed to help communities worldwide cope with the pandemic disruptions to normalcy.
COVID-19 forced new digital communications strategies on politicians too. The time-honored tradition of big conventions, door knocking, and fundraisers moved to ZOOM, Facebook Live, social media, WhatsApp, and Twitter. Money spent on digital advertising was three times the amount spent in 2016 (Center for Responsive Politics). However, political strategists report that the shift to digital technologies improved fundraising and expanded voter outreach.
Upgrading Messaging Strategies
The pandemic also required a shift in how executives, leaders, and politicians speak to their audience. Message strategists were conflicted at first. COVID-19 was the big elephant in the room. It was impossible to ignore, but a mistake could easily obliterate one’s reputation within seconds. Repackaging or rebranding wasn’t the best answer either because consumers were thirsty for the familiar. A radical change would add to the chaos, turning off followers.
Message timing became exceedingly critical. For example, is it the best time to market your new e-book if it doesn’t add value to your readers at this time as they struggle with COVID-19? The volume of self-promotion or sales marketing had to be lowered, with a pivot to becoming a trustworthy source of helpful information.
COVID-19 forced the advancement of new digital communications strategies that will last forever. Surveys indicate that the global audience intends to stick with digital platforms even after COVID-related restrictions are lifted. Executives, politicians, and thought leaders will need to maintain fluid digital communications strategies to remain connected to audiences looking for transparency and empathy.