September 15, 2020 | by Leigh Havelick
As discussed in our recent blog post, Communicating Through Difficult Times, the current climate in our nation and world has drastically changed the way we communicate and do business. Organizations are challenged to rethink ways in which they nurture relationships with customers, clients, and donors and support their employees. Additionally, they are now faced with the need to recoup lost revenue and adjust policies and operations to adapt. Brand differentiation is more important than ever.
Stand Out From the Crowd
The shift in the communications’ landscape begs for businesses and organizations to be innovative, forward-thinking, and relevant. It is important to stay in touch with clients’ changing needs and interests while remaining true to your mission and brand. Take some time to consider the following:
- What do your customers want?
- What do your customers need?
- How are you pivoting to cater to those wants and needs?
- How are you differentiating yourself from the competition?
Our client, Austin-based Jester King Brewery, is a great example of meeting customers’ needs during uncertain times. Early in the pandemic, when toilet paper was scarce, the brew pub opened a drive-thru Country Store offering grocery staples in addition to take-away food, beer and wine. Orders over $50 received a free roll of toilet paper. When it was time to reopen to the public in early June, Jester King turned its largely unused mass of 165 acres into a spacious park that boasts hiking trails and picnic tables stationed by a farm for growing hops, a vineyard, and a goat pen. The expansion aligns well with the brand as the company boasts beers made with well water, local grains, and hops grown on site.
As your organization evolves, not only does your brand need to reflect the ever-changing marketplace, but your messaging does as well. Meaning, if you remain stagnant while others are communicating and serving target audiences in innovative ways, you risk losing your competitive edge. After pondering the questions raised above to get your creative juices flowing, review your messaging and determine how it might be refreshed, perhaps even tweaked, to keep your organization relevant and top-of-mind.
Human Interest is Key
Showing emotion and vulnerability makes us human—and also helps humanize brands. Being vulnerable enables customers, volunteers, and donors to see and feel how they can be part of your work, part of your mission. People are often compelled to give or support a business when relatable content is shared, whether it be a specific donation request or a story that tugs on heartstrings.
Last fall, Bloom Communications partnered with Donate Life Northwest, an Oregon nonprofit working to raise awareness about organ donations and transplants, to share the story of Oregon State Representative Tiffiny Mitchell’s decision to become a living organ donor and give the gift of life. Over the course of one month, the campaign resulted in feature coverage spanning print, broadcast, and online media as part of the organization’s effort to generate much-needed awareness to the growing need for living donations, as well as to encourage people to become organ donors. Donate Life Northwest saw an increase in organ donation interest immediately following Representative Mitchell’s story coverage. This is a shining example of how impactful human interest stories can be.
If you’re a for-profit organization, consider adding a cause marketing element to your sales structure. For every “specified product” sold, give a percentage of sales to a local nonprofit that your business and target audiences are passionate about. Happy and engaged customers, clients, donors, and volunteers, are more likely to share their positive experiences and become brand ambassadors.
Be a Thought Leader
2020 presents a unique opportunity to position you and/or your organization as a leader in your industry, particularly if there is a specific tie to how you’re meeting the needs of—or driving change for—those impacted by the pandemic, social injustices, immigration, unemployment, etc. People are looking for leaders and companies they can trust. Be that person. Be that company.
Regardless of your industry, look for opportunities to join in conversations as an expert, whether it’s participating in podcasts, hosting virtual happy hours to discuss your latest product or service offering, or doing your first Instagram Live. Despite the pandemic presenting new challenges, you remain an expert in your chosen field. Take confidence in that and run with it!
Leverage a Multichannel Strategy
It’s time to recognize that traditional ways of communicating to target audiences may be antiquated as people’s ways of consuming news and information changes. If you are only communicating through email and newsletters, you should also consider additional innovative approaches to reach those target audiences.
People are getting their information digitally, now more than ever. You may not be a fan of social media, but chances are your customers and/or donors are already TikTok famous. We recommend identifying the channels that work for you—or more specifically, your customers—and creating a multichannel strategy. Post interactive, engaging, timely, and relevant content to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Send texts to your customers and donors to promote a special offer or inform them about an important update. Create a blog—and populate it with relevant and informative content. Use online advertising to connect with people who can’t seem to put their devices down. The list of digital tools you have at your disposal is endless, so ensure you’re weighing the costs and benefits for each one. Now is the time to be creative and think outside the box.
Recommit to your mission
Finally, staying true to your mission and company values is crucial. There are countless distractions everywhere you look. As you’re determining how your organization will adapt, remember to not stray from the premise on which you’ve built your organization. People with brand loyalty will continue to support you as best they can. We are all grasping for things that feel familiar and normal and good—whether it’s comfort food from our favorite Thai restaurant or writing a monthly check to support a nonprofit that continues to do amazing work during incredibly difficult times. Hang in there and don’t compromise your guiding principles as a short-term solution.
Learning to differentiate your brand in order to break through the noise isn’t going to be easy. Stay true to who you are, but know that change is here. It will require you to roll up your sleeves, think outside the box, and get uncomfortable. But, with being uncomfortable comes unexpected growth and new opportunities.