Annual comms planning in the new normal

November 10, 2021

We’re still living in somewhat strange times, how does the world around us impact on brand activity planning?


The nights are drawing in, the clocks have gone back and the John Lewis Christmas ad is on our TVs, that can mean only one thing in the world of PR and marketing…annual comms planning is in full swing!

The last ‘normal’ annual PR and comms planning season was two years ago now, and those plans went out the window just a few months into implementation. Then last year it was very much a watching brief. But this year, we have a bit of a clearer picture of what’s ahead of us…well, as much as we can in these times.

Being agile and nimble is a must in the comms game, regardless of who you work for and when you’re working. These are skills we’ve put to the test more so than ever over the past couple of years.

What’s going on in the world around us will always impact the how, why and where for any comms planning. We’d be foolish if we ignored it. And with the current state of things (to use a much over-used term from last year), there’s a genuine need to pivot.

There’s a more critical eye over brand activity than we’ve ever seen before. Any campaign has to be meaningful, and it can’t just be paying lip service to a bigger issue. Take sustainability as a major example. It simply cannot be ignored.


Sustainability and PR & comms planning

If a brand’s publicity has nothing to do with the green agenda but appears to be wasteful or damaging to the environment in any way, then the negative headlines will come thick and fast. Similarly, if on the reverse side you choose to completely focus plans around sustainability, if there’s even a whiff of greenwashing, you should expect to be called out in a major way.

The only way to do things is to do them properly. Anything else runs the risk of being detrimental to the brand and its reputation. In the words of our leader, Rachel, ‘Do The Right Thing’.


Planning campaigns in a post-Covid world

Not every campaign needs to be fighting the good fight, that’s true. There is still a very real need for some light heartedness. Fun and funny content will always have an impact, it’s infinitely shareable. At the end of the day, we all still want to be entertained and have a chuckle, that’s a great way to gather brand awareness when done well.

Getting the tone right is essential. That’s not new news, but in a time when there is so much negativity being reported, it’s important to be aware of the what, how, when and where if you’re launching a campaign. Paying attention to mood around us and foreseeing how a message might land.


What if your comms lands badly?

Having campaign-specific statements and Q&A responses is a bread and butter task. In current times, be prepared to think more broadly about the types of queries any brand activity might invoke:

• What has this activity done to the business’s carbon footprint?
• Is the stunt environmentally friendly?
• Will the collateral be recycled?
• Is the event Covid secure
• Why are all of the business spokespeople white / male? Who is in our boardroom from a diversity perspective?

Not all queries will be directly related to the comms content themes. Thinking about every possible eventuality when it comes to harming criticism and having robust responses is imperative.


Consumer considerations when planning your comms activity

Brands and comms professionals need to put themselves in the shoes of their target consumer, and of those who are likely to see the activity with a critical eye. After all, those are the folks you’re hoping to convert to customers and brand advocates.

The modern consumer is more considered when it comes to where their hard-earned money, and brand loyalty sits. Particularly when it comes to younger generations, they want to know that their action of engaging with a brand is positive right the way down the chain and that they’ve made a truly ethical choice.

Direct to consumer activity is only growing. Consumer engagement with brands’ owned channels via social media continues to increase and is a ripe opportunity for setting out your stall directly. And working with micro influencers remains an ideal channel to maximise the direct to consumer impact – they send their readymade audience to engage with you on their given channels – a cost effective comms no brainer.


In summary…

There are some key standout considerations when it comes to 2022 comms planning. Namely:

1. We’re living in a world where a handful of serious issues are reported widely and brand impact has to be taken into account. Carefully consider environmental issues, safety and diversity throughout all plans
2. Respite from the serious issues is much-needed, and brand comms can deliver that in a meaningful way…carefully
3. Direct to consumer, or a digital-first strategy is a must in the current environment


If you are a business that is looking for support in creating and executing an effective comms plan for 2022, please contact Siren Comms.