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NON-ESSENTIAL RETAIL STORES: HOW TO REBUILD CONSUMER TRUST

On the 15th June 2020, the Government allowed non-essential retail stores to reopen after being initially forced to close in April due to the outbreak of Coronavirus. Since, it’s been a tough ride for business owners. Trying to maintain a level of consumer trust whilst also being unable to operate is difficult. With many workers on furlough and so many businesses having to cease trading in all respects, some companies mightn’t have had the time to work on their communications and brand reputations during the lockdown period. So, if this is you, we’ve put together some advice on how to rebuild consumer trust and your brand image as you reopen today.

Rebuild Consumer Trust With Visibility

Rebuilding trust starts with being transparent and visible. There are a number of channels you can use to communicate with your stakeholders: social media, email, face to face, even through the press by getting publicity for your brand. You’ll also want to reach people that aren’t in your pre-existing consumer pool, too. We’ll touch on rebuilding stakeholder relations further down, but to really get your foot off the ground as non-essential retail stores begin to reopen, you’re going to want to make sure you’re visible to the entire public. As many people as you can be.

Spread the word of your reopening far and wide, make use of social media, and also sponsored posts where appropriate. Generate press coverage for your business and be loud. It’s all about being visible, especially if you trade in a saturated market. Don’t go quite and assume people will remember you – it’s been a torrid time for us all, you’ll need to remind people why they will love your brand. This is the first step of rebuilding trust.

Communicate What You Are Doing Differently

Now that you have the attention of stakeholders, you need to make sure you’re telling them the right thing. When announcing that you are reopening for trading, you’ll also need to communicate at the same time the steps you are taking to be Covid-19 secure. Presently, non-essential retail stores are only allowed to reopen if they can follow the 2m social distancing rules and can put precautions in place to protect shoppers. You’ll likely be doing this, so let your customers know too.

Lockdown has been an extraordinary and unprecedented time for us all, not least in the UK but across the whole world. Consumer attitudes are bound to have shifted and thus it’s only to be expected that some may be reluctant to get back out there and visit retailers such as yourself again. If you want to rebuild consumer trust, you need to be prepared to be very open, honest and detailed about how you are keeping people safe; and more importantly – you need to ensure those responsible measures are adhered to.

It could be as simple as posting on social media the signage you have installed, the sanitation points that you have around stores or the precautions staff are taking when they come into contact with consumers, or you could post updates on your website or email your databases. Have you and your staff taken Covid-19 hygiene courses in preparation? Share that too. There are plenty of ways to put the message across, the most important thing is making sure it’s said one way or another.

Encourage And Share Testimonials

One of the best forms of marketing remains to be WOM (word of mouth). Around 75% of people go to friends of family for product or service recommendations. If you’re offering a great in-store experience that allows customers to feel safe, then it’s likely they’ll tell somebody that they know about it. However, as a business, it helps to move that along even more and encourage wider testimonials. Is there a way you can incentivise customers to review their shopping experience? If so, this is something worth capitalising on as not only does this encourage further support from the public but it also gives you content to leverage on social media to keep on reinforcing and rebuilding consumer trust in your brand.

Don’t Ignore The Situation, Acknowledge It

Finally, it could be tempting to adopt a ‘business as usual’ stance. Not all brands will want to address the issue of Coronavirus head on, perhaps in fears of it putting more fear into consumers or even because simply that’s what everybody else is talking about. However, news concerning Covid-19 is quite frankly unavoidable. It’s fair to assume that almost everyone living in the UK will be aware to some degree of what has happened, and as such to not address it could even be seen as ignorant.

It’s important to acknowledge as a brand why you were closed, why you are now reopening and most importantly – what you have changed. Government regulations aside, you have a duty to your consumers to adopt safe measures as a retailer, being upfront about these is important – if you communicate to your customers and explain that their safety is paramount, this is a good way to rebuild consumer trust and encourage them that it is safe to shop with you.

Need Help To Rebuild Consumer Trust In Your Brand?

If you’re a brand – non-essential retailer or other – and are in need of support as your business reopens, then get in touch with The Source. Whether you’re needing to communicate to your customers, or market to a wider audience, we have experience in both B2B and B2C PR, marketing, social media and digital communications, we can help you.

9 WAYS TO GENERATE PR FOR SMALL BUSINESSES & SMES

Getting publicity for your business, especially in times such as these, is important. A sound PR strategy can help to increase your leads, boost your sales, widen your consumer base and also improve your overall brand awareness. If you’re a small business or SME (turnover of around £1.5m+) it’s important to communicate with your stakeholders and spread the visibility of your brand, so you can turn your SME into a larger scale operation. Chances are, you won’t have a fully-fledged internal PR team to guide your strategies, you might be looking for a PR agency to support your organisation, but until then, we’ve put together 8 easy tips around how to get PR for small businesses and SMEs

Why Bother With PR For Small Businesses & SMEs?

But first, PR (Public Relations) is the function of protecting and improving your brand visibility and reputation.

Not only does it work in safeguarding your brand against any public backlash and handling your communication strategies in a crisis, but a great PR strategy will also help to grow your reputation and make your business name more recognisable amongst your target audience.

This can be through growing your social media following or generating awareness of your business in relevant media outlets – both of these, along with other PR tactics, work to an overall aim of making your small business name more recognisable. They include:

We will touch on them further below.

Some very large organisations may have an in-house PR and marketing team, others, as well as SMEs and smaller businesses, may utilise the support of a PR agency, like ours.

9 Ways To Generate PR For Small Businesses & SMEs

There are a number of ways in which you can generate media attention and publicity for any brand, we have covered them here. With smaller organisations, you may have to work a little harder to get your name out there – there will likely be some degree of competition no matter what industry you’re in, so you need to make your brand memorable.

From our years of experience in PR and Marketing, here’s 8 ideas we would recommend you test to generate PR for your small business

1. First, plan

Know what you want to say and mostly importantly – to whom. What are your USPs, strengths and benefits? How do you want people to see your business? This vital planning will help shape your communications that can be consistently delivered via a number of channels, be it media, social or online.

2. Turn your business stories into news

If you’ve done something amazing as a business, turn it into news and let everyone know about it. For example, if you’re supporting a cause this can help to strengthen your reputation and position you as a responsible business if you spread the word. Likewise, trade titles are often interested in appointments of senior staff. You may be surprised at what makes a good PR story. Start by publishing information on social media, and then perhaps get in touch with the local papers with a press release, to see if they’d like to write about you.

3. Be chatty on social media

One of the best ways to build your brand reputation is to maintain an active voice on social media. PR covers online presence as well as getting media coverage in print, making sure you’re putting out great content on relevant channels and engaging with your customers is a key PR tip for small businesses and SMEs.

4. Communicate consistently

Even in hard times such as the Coronavirus outbreak, it’s important to keep communicating with your consumers. Don’t let them forget about you, and then turn to your competitors instead. As a business, a loyal consumer base is vital so ensure that you remain a consistent flow of communication through avenues such as social media, media appearances, email marketing and so on.

5. Be friendly with journalists

Even if you have no news to share, you can still get PR coverage for your small business or medium enterprise by remaining friendly with journalists; they might be looking for a business to feature in a round up piece – and could opt to use you if you’re on their radar. This tip is better matched with a PR agency, who will have a large database of journalists that they have built.

6. Make use of PPC & social ads

It’s worth considering PPC and social media advertising in your strategy, a great way to generate guaranteed exposure of your organisation. You’ll need to read up on the best keywords to target and then make sure you’re utilising the channels that your target audience frequent the most, but as with any other step, it’s important to remain consistently visible.

7. Consider influencer marketing

Working with influencers is still a viable way of generating PR for your brand, influencers are often trusted sources of information, with around half of Gen Z and millennials saying they trust their opinions. Create a database of reliable accounts and negotiate with them to promote your product or service.

8. Support charities & the local community

Everybody loves a good, positive story… So, make one. You can generate PR for small businesses, SMEs and multi-million-pound businesses by working with and supporting local charities and your community. Whether this is through fundraising, sponsorship or perhaps providing free goods and services to worthy causes. Doing fantastic things is a sure-fire way to achieve regional PR coverage for your small business at the very least.

9. Track & share your coverage

Most importantly, it’s crucial to track any PR coverage you might have achieved and share this to further strengthen your brand’s reputation. If you’re finding it hard to place where your brand might have been covered, you can set up Google Alerts for the name of your business. Be sure to share coverage on the relevant social media channels to further reinforce the integrity of your brand.

If you’re in need of further PR support, then why not arrange a free consultation with us to see how we can help strengthen your reputation and grow your brand. The Source PR is a PR Agency in Cheshire, North West, with over a decade of experience in supporting SMEs to larger corporations with PR, social media, marketing, SEO and more.

CORONAVIRUS COMMUNICATIONS: WHY FIRMER GOVERNMENT MESSAGING WAS NEEDED

Anyone can get it.

Anyone can spread it.

Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.

This is the new messaging that the government released last night, after previous attempts of strong Coronavirus communications messaging to the public arguably failed.

Coronavirus Communications – How Important Is Getting The Message Right?

Throughout the unfolding of this pandemic, the government has been met with the challenge of keeping the public well informed and engaged; essentially, they hold the key to successfully containing the virus. The challenge, however, is to share key information, without causing panic or underplaying the issue.

Initially, this begun with the government trying to assure people that the virus would be able to be contained, in multiple press confrences it was downplayed. Now, several weeks on, the Coronavirus communications tactics have changed.

Learning from their mistakes, we believe that the government has noted that their earlier tactics were not successful, and have now moved to more open, transparent, and if you like – firmer – comms.

The announcement of the lockdown was unlike anything this generation has ever seen. The messaging from the government was clear and concise: you must not leave your home.

Before this, using words such as ‘we advise’ and ‘we suggest’ meant that many did not feel inclined to follow the rules, which could potentially be to blame for the increase outbreak of Covid-19 that the UK is now experiencing.

Now, they have gone one step further: explicitly stating that anyone can get Coronavirus, and consequently, anybody can spread it. You must stay home if you want to protect the NHS and save lives.

Coronavirus Communications - New Government Messaging

The best Coronavirus communications ads are those that are clear, but also relatable. They need to hit home and feel personal. The handwashing ad message put out by the government, for example, was effective – giving people a clear message and a simple way of ensuring the right amount of time is taken by twice singing one of the UK’s best-known songs – ‘Happy Birthday’.

This kind of message sticks in the mind, and is something that we don’t doubt the public would have taken on board, as the message was strong and no-nonsense.

Again, the ‘catch it, bin it and kill it’ advert that we’ve all come to know shows a simple way for people to take basic protective measures with clear illustrations and a simple message.

There are no suggestions, there is a firm ‘you must do this’ tone in the messaging, and this is why it works.

Why Did The Government Change Their Message?

The more generic advice to ‘stay off work and self-isolate for 14 days’ if feeling unwell, argugably lead to exploitation.

It’s a simple message but one that required more detail considering the potential impact on the economy. In situations like this, a rigid Coronavirus communications message is required and though trying not to cause hysteria, it would have been a better idea for the government to give the public all the information they had available. Perhaps then, the population may have understood the implications and repercussions of continuing to socialise and ignore social distancing guidelines for as long as they did.

They say a picture paints a thousand words, this comparison image of the Kaaba in Saudia Arabia shows the impact that the right messaging can have:

Coronavirus Communications - New Government Messaging Coronavirus Communications - New Government Messaging

The shift in the outward communication from the government now has seen more definitive messaging in place: “you must stay at home”, “you must not see friends”.

Following this, a large proportion of the working population is now doing so remotely, people are following guidelines to only leave the house once daily, and shops are now practicing prolific social distancing measures. The change in communication is in no doubt responsible for this, and it goes to show the importance of putting across the right message.

Communication works.

In all cases though, the government must also refrain from getting drawn into ‘Armageddon scenarios’ by speculating on figures for potential rises in deaths or NHS capabilities.

We’ve already seen incredible panic food buying in shops and it is likely to detract from the messages around how best to manage the impending epidemic. Your message needs to be clear and strong, and needs to ensure no room is left for speculation.”

Getting your communications right isn’t easy, if it was, everybody would be experts!

 

If you or your business is in need of professional, quality and, if needs be, confidential Coronavirus Communications advice, please email louis@sourcepr.co.uk or call 01829 720 789.

Louis, Managing Director of The Source, recently gave the press his advice around the Government’s updated Coronavirus messaging as the updated campaigns were announced; his comments can be found in the Metro, ITV, Yahoo, Daily Mail and more.

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