Why understanding your audiences is crucial in getting your message and tone right during COVID-19

Ben GlanvilleHead of Data Services, UK & Growth Markets
May 13, 2020, 1:44 PM GMT+0

The consumer landscape has changed dramatically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a challenging time for many people as their home and work situations have been completely transformed.

Several brands have successfully pivoted their PR and comms strategies to avoid appearing insensitive to the crisis. However, there are also examples of brands missing the mark and regurgitating COVID buzzwords and stock phrases with cookie-cutter comms that are more likely to turn their audiences off.

Understanding how coronavirus is affecting your audiences and what is important to them at this time is crucial in terms of getting the tone and message right – and communicating with them where and when is most appropriate.

At YouGov, we have been putting our full focus towards gathering insight on people’s experiences of COVID-19 and how consumer behaviour is changing: analysing everything from politics to brands across 26 markets.

As the situation develops, we’re looking at what a post-lockdown world might look like and how consumer trends could change.

Recent research from YouGov’s mood tracker shows that Brits are slowly finding happiness again. Prior to the coronavirus crisis, happiness was consistently the most common emotion Brits felt in any given week, with an average of 50% reporting it since we started tracking the topic in the summer of 2019. This continued as recently as March 9th, but then plummeted – by the next week it had fallen to 39% and then to 25% by March 23rd. Encouragingly, over the last five weeks happiness levels have risen back up to 38% - although we are still some way off a return to normal levels of joy.

It’s clear that the public is slowly adjusting to this new way of life, but they’re still not accustomed to it yet and things don’t look as positive beyond the lockdown.

Brits are still feeling wary about returning to public places, even if the rules permit them to do so. 46% of the public say they would feel uncomfortable visiting clothes stores and 63% would feel uncomfortable visiting pubs and bars. Brits are generally more concerned about visiting places where they would likely end up in closer contact with others.

With uncertainty still prevalent in consumers, more than ever, brands need to be communicating in an authentic way that aligns with their values. The standard rules still apply - have a clear message, be distinctive and highlight a product benefit that will help the consumer.

Our research shows that appetite is still there among consumers – with over three quarters of Brits still buying non-essential goods online during lockdown. The figure is highest among those aged 25 to 34, with 42% saying they have bought more online during this time than they otherwise would. With Brits still browsing and buying online, it is important that brands do not stop advertising, as arguably their audience is more digitally present than ever before. With UK consumers shopping online more frequently it is important to factor in their mood.

Market research can help agencies and in-house PR teams understand how people are reacting and behaving during this time of significant change and answer the challenges of this crisis. There is a huge opportunity for forward thinking brands to use tools like omnibus research to enable them to adapt and emerge stronger on the other side.

For the latest YouGov International COVID-19 tracker data, click here. If you want to stay up to date with all the latest public opinion and expert insights related to the COVID-19 pandemic from YouGov, click here.

This piece originally appeared in PR Week.

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