Sharing insight and commentary
Our view on the state of the PR nation
PRESS & PR
CRISIS. WHAT CRISIS?
noun - a time of intense difficulty or danger
It used to be that ‘crisis’ was a term reserved for an extraordinary event that needed managing, something that needed experience and skill to find a pathway for everyone concerned to emerge unscathed on the other side. Today it appears that ‘crisis’ has more or less become a byword for a never-ending stream of unusual events, whatever the scale of its impact. It also appears that we are subject to more frequent crises – Covid crisis, political crisis, cost of living crisis, energy crisis, petrol crisis, Northern Ireland Protocol crisis, climate crisis and last but not least for our industry, the travel crisis – to name but a few that we have encountered in the last 12 months.
This is not to underestimate the seriousness of the current situation since politically, socially and economically, we are clearly living in unprecedented times that deserve our full attention. And regardless of whether we agree all these events deserve the hyperbole definition of ‘crisis’, there is no doubt that association with this term brings a feeling of panic and unease for many, a sense of anxiety that something is happening that is outside our control. No wonder we are living in times when attention to our mental health is so prevalent – crisis is not an environment that automatically encourages a calm or thoughtful response by those involved.
Crisis management for everyone has never been so important – it really is centre stage for communications strategy and requires careful consideration from both a personal and business perspective. Key to recovery of the global tourism industry is the elimination of as much anxiety as possible to encourage the return and development of both domestic and international travel - something that we all yearned for during lockdown and the restrictions of the Covid-19 global pandemic. Recent events at airports and ports have not been helpful for the industry since they create a perception of chaos (a close relation to panic) and may have damaged or at least diluted consumer desire to travel. The immediacy of social media and other platforms generates first hand visibility of these issues which,, without counter arguments, can quickly escalate into our psyche as being factually accurate and the norm.
These counter arguments need to be carefully curated and distributed in a consistent manner to create the environment needed - especially for those with a more nervous attitude when it comes to travel per se - to restore confidence and positivity to the travel experience - both at home and abroad. And governments have a major ongoing role to play in helping diminish anxiety and restore confidence and stability in the industry.
The travel industry faces a challenge to reconcile a changing consumer market with the supply-side dynamics that have had an unhelpful and obvious impact on the capacity of all forms of transport and the quality of experience, particularly in relation to international travel. It is vital to have an informed and challenging external sounding board to help identify and resolve issues before they occur. Responsible communications dictate that travel companies must tackle the increasing perception that travel of any kind is anxiety-inducing and find ways to make sure that the desired or at least expected experience matches the reality that is delivered to customers.
Managing communications and thereby expectations during a crisis calls for a cool, level-headed approach that examines alternative scenarios and stays honest and factual, shunning the knee jerk emotional response that only leads to escalation of the initial problem into real crisis territory. We only have to look at BA’s radical yet decisive response this week to the fear of overcrowded airports and cancelled flights during peak season in suspending all short haul bookings from Heathrow to see an effective crisis strategy in action. Even if industry commentators did want more and better communications the act itself sends a positive message to those already booked to travel this summer – we are making sure your experience is as positive as possible even if it costs us financially to do so.
Already evident in public sentiment today it appears that customers are willing to adjust to an evolving new norm in global travel as long as they know what they are likely to expect or experience, how they need to adjust to this changing environment and believe a business is going to do everything it can to deliver to and meet that expectation. A little effort, honesty and customer communication goes a long way in reputation management.
Media training and message anticipation and development takes on an added importance in this situation - even more reason to make sure any PR team is ready and equipped for every eventuality. We can confidently say that burying your head in the sand when faced with a problem, issue or crisis is never the answer. It won’t just disappear.
Instead the truth in some guise normally prevails. And even when alternative routes are attempted, the truth is likely to win through in the end. Far better to face up to reality at as early a stage as possible and plan a forward-looking communications strategy that explores alternative scenarios on that basis. Clear, concise, calm and honest is undoubtedly the best route, even in the darkest of times. Something that the dulcet tones of Morgan Freeman as the US President in the movie Deep Impact demonstrated only too convincingly (and memorably).
It would be good to get away from the dramatic interpretation of current events as a series of continuous ‘crises’ and allow the return of a series of issues and problems that are far less ‘loaded’ emotionally, and therefore bring with them far less anticipatory stress. This would allow consumer behaviour to become readjusted onto a more even keel, assured that the global community has the capacity to manage incidents in a straightforward way to allow travel with confidence.
We are not all longing for a boring crisis-less existence, we could just do with a few months where the term ‘crisis’ is eliminated from our everyday vocabulary so we can shape positivity for the travel sector at home and abroad.
Crisis, what crisis? may be the mantra we all need to adopt as we downscale the feeling of anxiety and demonstrate that we are confidently in control whatever the future holds.
There are a number of ways in which White Tiger PR can help travel, leisure and lifestyle brands:
Benefit from our experience in how to deal calmly, thoughtfully, quickly and rationally [*delete where applicable] with whatever issue has arisen to potentially negatively impact your customers or business;
Ensure you are fully prepared to communicate with stakeholders and the media way before a crisis occurs;
Understand how to plan, respond to and recover from a crisis with effective PR scenario planning and messaging;
Discover how to overcome problems brought about by the pandemic including teams working remotely and/or nervous consumers;
Gain practical insights into managing social media and how to shape the immediate response to any crisis;
Hear first-hand experience from clients we have worked with on how they communicated throughout a crisis and how White Tiger turned crisis situations into client opportunities;
Gain new ideas for updating your crisis communications strategy - more important than it ever has been before - an investment definitely worth making;
Overhaul your PR strategy for 2022/23 and beyond.
UNCERTAIN TIMES DEMAND CERTAIN COMMUNICATIONS
It's imperative during times of uncertainty for businesses to communicate and to communicate clearly and often both internally and externally.
Particularly when there might be bad news - plans disrupted and lives impacted in a negative way - in these circumstances good communication can provide a lifeline for commercial relationships, creating a sense of reassurance and trust.
That in turn enables organisations to stay resilient and productive during times of uncertainty. Through careful planning and preparation, early communication (notwithstanding multiple changes in regulations and guidelines) enables businesses to gain credibility. The businesses that keep their customers firmly in the loop in an open and honest way will be those most able to successfully navigate these tricky times, to grow brand trust and loyalty from customers, putting them in a prime position for future business as markets return.
It's imperative to reach out to both existing and previous customers - and continue to do so on a regular basis with help and useful information. This is the new normal and people, especially those in self-isolation, will be dreaming of resuming a degree of normality and travelling as soon as they can. They need escapism! For most potential customers TV, radio, and online media will form an even-more vital part of their daily routine. You need to maximise that opportunity
Be flexible in any and all ways possible so you are seen by customers to be adjusting your practices to fit the current environment - much in the same way as individuals have had to adjust their lives to fit the ever-changing COVID environment.
Managing disappointment is now a primary function of travel, lifestyle and leisure PR. We have had to become experts at factoring potential disappointment into communication strategies. Lots of our clients ask how they can best manage this and our advice is always to be open, honest, and transparent and, above all, be human and empathetic and, most importantly, consistent in your messages.
Show your customers through your actions as well as your words that you are determined to put people first. Consumers will undoubtedly remember those brands that went the extra mile - in new and intuitive ways - at a challenging time and as recovery approaches, you will reap the benefits of customer loyalty.
MAXIMISE YOUR DIGITAL FOOTPRINT
People are consuming more digital technology across all platforms than ever before with the average adult accessing 5x more information than 50 years ago*.
This creates a huge opportunity for businesses to grow their brand trust with consumers in new and different ways. More than anything, strong strategic PR and marketing campaigns can be supercharged by effective online influencer and digital strategies.
Creating a digital strategy allows companies to deliver against specific objectives, measure strict KPI's, and analyse results thoroughly. Having an in-depth understanding of target audiences and respective responses allows businesses to adjust and create on-point messages, powerful calls to actions, and select appropriate platforms to best communicate your proposition to the different existing and emerging audiences.
White Tiger has always led the way in delivering integrated marketing campaigns for clients creating a holistic communications strategy that interweaves seamless communications online and off. We continue to do so at a time when it's never been more important.
Customer segmentation has always shown that different messaging is often needed for different socio-economic groups. It is now needed to account for the different ways people are responding to the ongoing health crisis - overlaying these sentiments onto the standard socio-economic profile generates some interesting outcomes for many brands.
Motivations to purchase have changed purchasing priorities, permanently in many cases, in a short period of time and new considerations and impact scenarios are required when planning future strategy.
One clear dichotomy is based on personal financial situations. Those who have been financially impacted by the COVID crisis are becoming price-led and cautious about making any investment where there isn't 100% confidence in recovering funds. On the other hand, the less financially-impacted luxury market is keenly investigating savvy ways to get to their destinations. As a prime example, enquiries into private jet and villa packages to the Caribbean continue to go through the roof.
So our message is, if you're not maximising your digital footprint in new and engaging ways, ensuring that it is working effectively to boost your PR messaging and reach new audiences, speak to White Tiger for an alternative view of how you can make your imprint permanent.
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White Tiger PR in the News
"Talking to customers, being open, informed, and innovative is key for businesses during the pandemic."
As the pandemic hit the UK, White Tiger Managing Director, Cass Helstrip, was asked by Travel Weekly to give her thoughts on how best to communicate with customers in a crisis.
Read the full article HERE
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As the Covid hiatus has passed there are multiple other unexpected economic and social factors waiting on the horizon to challenge the marketplace.
To capture demand flexibility will continue to be vital, as will the appeal of original new experiences that many only dreamed about over the last two years.
Starting and maintaining ongoing conversations is vital to maximising the business opportunities of 2022/23.
Be brave and true to your brand – White Tiger can help you find new and innovative messages and media to communicate with your different audiences.
We continue to work tirelessly to ensure our clients understand the evolving communications issues and are in a position to maximise on any and all opportunities. Although we are always concentrating on what comes next for our clients, some of our coverage - online, broadcast, and in print - deserves attention.
If you're not sure where to start, or how to take your communications strategy forward in the current environment, get in touch with White Tiger today for an informal conversation.
If you'd like a no-strings conversation about your situation and how we can help, please email email@example.com or call Cass Helstrip on 07968 255 464.