How marketing and PR will help you sail through COVID-19

While convincing the consumers to use the product again is the power of the product; leading them to the first time purchase is Public Relations and Marketing.
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In a dozen years of my career, I encountered my sweetest moment of pure play PR last week - tiny in form, but momentous in scale.

On the occasion of Chhath, a festival native to the region of the state Bihar, the Navbharat Times Delhi edition carried an article. An exclusive sweet delicacy called Thekua was now available online. My old uncle went weak on his knees and looked towards me with a puppy face. He’s yet to catch the digital train. I found myself without an option and take up the assignment.

Surprised, I found there was just one single independent website selling them. Neither of Zomato or Swiggy had any to offer. I convinced myself it’s the pandemic and perhaps in general the demand was less here in Delhi. I ordered the stuff and to be doubly assured, I left a message on the number mentioned in the ‘contact us’ section.

I was contacted promptly only to hear an inspiring story unfold. The website is a business enterprise of a skilful couple who lost their jobs earlier and had bills to pay. Their drive to use their talent brought them to brainstorm this novel venture. It took them less than a week to set up the website and logistics, reach a break-even, and even hire their first staff. They weren’t anticipating the demand and their numbers are huge now.

To me, this sweet case, however minute, is the reminder of the aspirations of an entrepreneur, the dedication of the startups, and the power of public relations (PR). We may not be leading through the best of times right now with the money yet to start flowing in. Yet, if a startup is taking shape, we got to include budgets for PR and marketing as a requisite even at the elementary stage.

Credibility – Proof of the pudding

Among the first thing that PR does is make your brand credible. It makes it easy for the potential consumer to make a choice. It shuns the chances of a compromise as it is an informed decision they are taking.

From reviews on Zomatos and Amazons, to demos by Influencers, there is a backing that the product or brand has received. PR gets the brand an online presence and the smart consumer will first look up at you on Google.

Integrated marketing – be where the party is

The Thekua case study couldn’t have managed with that smart plug-in in the Navbharat Times article alone. The idea had to be fortified with content written with the intent, having a presence on social media – only the relevant ones, a feedback channel, and of course the customer delight that will close the loop.

The communication is taking place at all these touch points, which are building trust in the consumer and a positive intent of the brand to serve them not just the box but a delightful experience.

Skipping through the marketing funnel

Time is expensive than money and marketing is no more a long series of events. Technology and its genius in ‘the digital’, is a catalyst, an accelerator or rather gives wings to ideas. While convincing the consumers to use the product again is the power of the product; leading them to the first time purchase is Public Relations and Marketing.

Today, the marketing funnel can be played around to the best of our interest. It isn’t necessary to go through all awareness, interest, consideration, desire, engagement, and action. We can skip some, make it more direct from awareness to engagement and purchase. The access to tech with the smartphone has changed the game.

Brace for the Covidified impact

After the lockdown was started, consumers got some time to self-introspect. They choose their brands wisely and they look at them differently now. They are more value seeking and less experimental. Consumers will think twice or thrice before taking a decision, and of course the disposable incomes have taken a hit. But now, nonetheless, a brand without a soul will be less consumed.

Convey empathy with PR

PR is that bridge which will allow startups to communicate with their audience. PR is also the channel through which content is used to build brand perception – the soul that we are talking about. Only the brands that convey empathy will touch the right chords with the consumers.

An effective business communication strategy addressing all stakeholders has become increasingly important this year.

Use marketing intelligence

Marketers have become stringent with budgets, and are more KPI and KRA driven. ROIs is what will be premeditated and the scope of error will be to a minimum. With that tight scope of work, one needs to embrace marketing intelligence, programmatic advertising, social listening, and target where their TG is.

It is not going to be an easy ride, but as a startup owner, one will need the support of forces that make them intelligent and take decisions backed by scientific insights and not from the gut.

Despite every resource to their pocket, what is happening with WhiteHat Jr has jolted us all. Being connected with the startup community for long, we have seen many of them with a short shelf life, even as big as Housing.com. This caution driven mindset has led some to celebrate even the small amicable exits while that may not be the prime intent.

As integrated marketing practitioners, we pay a huge emphasis on laying a strong foundation for a brand to allow sustainable growth. To build a consistency in the brand narratives, startups need to imbibe effective PR and showcase the integrity and values they are created on. A brand is the personality of the founder after all.

Edited by Megha Reddy

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)