How three companies have adapted their content, messaging and positioning to respond positively to the challenge of these extraordinary times.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has seen many companies halt their PR activities altogether, but a special few have taken it as an opportunity to grow and change.
Apple, Creativity Goes On
Apple’s brand interventions have been twofold: the first reminds us to keep things hopeful with the Creativity Goes On campaign, while the other offers practical support with a COVID-19 app. Alongside regular efforts to migrate to the virtual environment by hosting events such as WWDC 2020 online, they’ve gone beyond the necessary pivots to continue doing business.
Their Creativity Goes On campaign inspires joy in people in lockdown by sharing the tools and tips they need to remain connected, playfully. From showcasing creative projects on Apple at Home to an Educational Learning Series that helps educators set up online classrooms — they’re coming through for those who may otherwise have felt lost at sea, without insensitively punting products.
More practically, they’ve also dedicated resources to building a COVID-19 app that offers up-to-date CDC guidance to people across the US. According to PR Week, they’ve also made updates to Siri so that she can answer queries on the coronavirus, and taken steps to ensure employees are paid during time off.
Key takeout: Sometimes going above and beyond can build brand respect that delivers in the long term. Sharing resources that both inspire hope and serve practical purposes when times are tough, can go a long way towards building trust.
Getty Museum, The Getty Museum Challenge
The J. Paul Getty Museum turned its COVID-19-related closure into a PR coup with the Getty Museum Challenge. While the idea of replicating famous artworks with what you found around you first appeared on a Dutch Instagram account, the Getty Museum has popularised it to the point of lending it its name. They’ve taken a brand that used to be considered elite and inaccessible and popularised engagement with its “product” so well that it now has a dedicated Reddit thread and an honourable mention on Bored Panda.
This radical reach into the public imagination is supported by leveraging popular culture even further — they’ve created an Animal Crossing Art Generator that lets users build an art museum in the game, literally bringing art (and the Getty brand) to where audiences are.
Key takeout: Break down traditional barriers of access to your brand and the old rules of engagement don’t apply. While this is currently driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, it builds a positive brand personality which can turn into market growth in the long term.
Nike, Play for the World
In April 2020, Wieden + Kennedy launched their Play for the World campaign for Nike. Already known for a slew of almost saucy challenges, this one was no different — sending up the fact that the best way fans and readers could influence millions, was by staying home.
This simple and effective take was backed by brand ambassadors such as LeBron James and Michael Jordan, and accompanied by a digital platform and content library that keeps users active and brand-engaged, from the relative safety of their homes.
The campaign was also accompanied by a donation of $15M towards COVID-19 relief efforts, and inevitable store closures were preceded by a statement that any staff unable to work would receive paid time off. This demonstrates that Nike is willing to behave in the same way it asks of its users — with the indomitable spirit of an athlete.
Key takeout: Crises like the COVID-19 pandemic offer unique opportunities for brands to put their money where their mouths are. Proving your customer-centric mindset through actions that clearly put people over profit and encourage positive change or behaviours will have customers returning with dollars as soon as stores reopen and markets recover.
Taking inspiration beyond 2020
The basics of each winning strategy? Without deviating from their brand voice and style, companies that took the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to grow did so by prioritising people over profit. Of course, a healthy bottom line comes into it, but the impact of COVID-19 means that brands who invest in supporting people’s well-being now, will benefit through increased brand awareness and trust once things normalise.
Creatively, it can be challenging to strike a balance between keeping things lighthearted and the lived reality of full hospitals and empty streets. Campaigns that have succeeded have acknowledged the common thread: that everyone needs some help right now, but that the nature of that support can be different, and brand specific.
Winning brands are taking bold stances and rolling out PR campaigns that bridge the gap between crisis and resolution, without losing sight of their core values, brand voice or behaviour. By proving they’re people-centric now, they’ll be top-of-mind when consumers look for customer-centric brands beyond the moment.
Reaching your audience in a context-appropriate way takes consideration, and each of these examples was backed by a creative agency that assessed the PR move as a calculated risk worth taking. And that’s where we can help!
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