For B2C brands, the direction of communications during this time is clear. Consumers know what they are and aren’t allowed to do, where they are and aren’t allowed to go, and brands can be mindful of this in their marketing and PR activity. In fact, we’ve seen Cadbury change its advertising in line with social distancing, and Ikea launch a campaign imitating its own flat pack instructions to show how to build forts for children out of furniture at home.
But in B2B land, it’s not so simple. Companies know they need to invest in PR and marketing activity to continue to drive awareness and sales, but they also don’t want to be insensitive to what is going on in the world. So how should B2B tech companies approach PR and communications during this time?
There are different personas that B2C brands are adopting during the crisis—reassuring consumers and providing information (e.g. banks extending overdrafts or offering mortgage breaks); amplifying healthcare advice (e.g. broadcasters carrying “stay at home” messaging on screen); providing help to consumers to cure the boredom (e.g. PE with Joe Wicks); or showing their support for those that have been greatly impacted by the pandemic (e.g. supermarkets and other shops opening early for the elderly or offering discounts for NHS workers). And there are similar personas that B2B companies can adopt, especially in tech land, to show their support for customers and their industries during this time:
- Supporting business with fast innovation: It is a time when we all need to adapt, and companies that can update products or services to accommodate how we find ourselves working and operating, should. The likes of Microsoft Teams and other video conferencing and collaboration tools are great examples of companies that have quickly updated and enhanced their offerings to meet today’s business needs. Showcasing fast innovation during this time should be a priority for those that can do so, and these businesses should be promoting how they are supporting customers and end-users.
- Offering discounted or free products and services to support those impacted: Just like in B2C, B2B companies can show their support and promote free products or services to industries greatly impacted by the virus. Our client EXFO for example is offering its test and measurement solution, TestFlow, to telecoms service providers, free for three months, while SolarWinds is offering its Take Control Plus remote support solution for free for 90 days. Publications like Tech Radar Pro are consolidating lists of the companies that are offering free products or services during the pandemic, most notably to the healthcare, public and education industries.
- Martialing resources to help those in need: Showing support doesn’t just come in the way of offering free products or services. There are businesses making donations, thanks to a surplus or as a by-product of their core business offering. Our client HYLA is donating phone chargers to hospitals—something it collects as part of its device recycling business, helping those admitted to hospital to stay connected to their loved ones.
- Sharing insights to sustain business: Now more than ever, having insights into markets and industries is crucial. Sharing your thoughts on the impact to your industry and to your customers will be well received, but do so intelligently. What data do you have on the impact of the virus that would be of real value to your customers? What unique data do you have that your competitors don’t have? This new insight will help businesses understand more about the landscape, their opportunities and how they can overcome challenges. Our client BearingPoint//Beyond recently re-engineered a content marketing campaign to guide telco thinking in relations to COVID-19.
Ultimately, when it comes to B2B, the same logic as B2C applies—companies should be paying attention to what is happening in the world, and they too should get creative when it comes to positioning and promoting themselves, their products and their services. Of course, we all understand that how we are working is not the norm, but a lot of businesses do still need to run and operate as close to normal as they can. As long as companies are mindful of tone, it is OK to talk about ‘ordinary’ business things too. Announce that new hire, that acquisition, the new product or service. Big tech news broke a couple of weeks ago when Microsoft announced its plans to acquire Metaswitch, strengthening its 5G play. Things like this are still news, and still of interest. And we all know we need some good news, and some normality during this time.
And remember that we are all human. Whether it’s buying pasta or buying a cloud-based software solution, it’s still a person making a purchase decision—and the companies that will be remembered will be the ones that have done something helpful, clever, creative, or genuinely interesting to capture their audiences’ attention.