No, not an existential question, but something that as communications professionals we should be asking of both ourselves and our clients right now during the Covid-19 crisis.


There are no crisis communications manuals with quick fixes to tell us how best to navigate the current situation, fact. But do we really need one?  I’d say not.


Our communications purpose remains the same – to manage the genuine connection between brands and their audiences.


The playing field might have changed, and we certainly need to be mindful of what’s happening around us, but brands absolutely need to demonstrate their purpose now more than ever to remain relevant.


How brands respond right now will have an impact on how they rebound from the crisis.  And, it’s our consumer PR job to make sure consumers see brands in action.


We shouldn’t be afraid of staying true to brand purpose, just because things have changed doesn’t mean that brands need to re-think what they stand for.  On the contrary, action that’s true to purpose is everything right now and should be encouraged through consumer PR.  The media still need content to report on, positive PR campaigns can at their heart continue to echo the important safety messages and counter fake news.  Consumers also need to feel hope and need to hear and feel reassured by brands they trust.


How Brands Can Respond in Oder to Rebound

Brands that built themselves on caring for communities, having family values or a maverick, positive attitude need to show their metal, not simply put their ‘purpose’ out to furlough and hope that consumers will still believe them in the few months.


Whether that is a PR campaign reminding everyone that as an essential retailer, wilko stores remain open to give hard working families a place to buy their household and hardware essentials, a safe alternative to the large supermarkets or recognising their team members’ spirit and donations of essential items to foodbanks and NHS trusts.

Brands like Dr. Oetker Baking, whose purpose is to encourage ‘baking inspiration’ have sensitively adapted their PR campaign to encourage the nation to stay home, stay safe and #bakearainbow. Celebrating the hard work and commitment of key workers by posting colourful bakes on social channels.  We’ve even encouraged some famous faces to donate some if not all of their usual fees and post their bakes in exchange for a charitable donation from Dr. Oetker on their behalf.


And, Dr Beckmann who issued a public thank you to staff who are working round the clock to make more anti-bacterial household cleaning products than ever before to fulfil the unprecedented demand. It’s both humbling and uplifting to see how team members at the Bolton-based factory are pulling together to make sure people have enough products to keep their homes clean and safe through the lock-down. That’s purpose and spirit right there.

You could go as far as arguing there is no brand that’s irrelevant at this time – those who can’t open such as Manchester’s Great Northern Warehouse entertainment venue has created a Manchester mural, bringing the city together to boost spirits and is encouraging social media fans to recreate their own restaurant or bar experience at home with recipes and inspiration.

For Manchester Gin, the lock down brought some tough decisions and the closure of its restaurant and bar, however the brand has adapted and reset.  Online sales are booming and regular online tasting tutorials are giving people stuff to do at home and new ways to engage with the brand.  The innovative distiller has gone one step further and changed its core function to remember its purpose, ‘for the love of Manchester’ and switched from distilling gin to making hand sanitiser to support its new neighbour, NHS Nightingale North West.


Encouraging and supporting brands to positively & sensitively communicate and demonstrate their purpose during the crisis is our essential role in consumer PR. It’s a case of going back to the brand purpose, what’s at the heart of their reason for existence and making sure that the activity is genuine and relevant.

What’s Your Brand Purpose?

How brands react and conduct themselves today will absolutely impact their ability to rebound in the hopefully not so distant future.  And, rebound they will, with the help of a strategic communications plan.


Stay safe.

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About the Author

Peter Burling