Agility is key when pivoting your communications in a pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges to every business, including Adobe. We’re sharing the lessons we’ve learnt — like the need for real-time customer insights — in this six-part series.
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1: Real-time customer insights
2: Communication agility
3: Human connection
4: New ways of working
5: Reexamining strategy
6: Digital adoption
Life has changed — your message should too
You can’t but help notice that every other commercial these days has been a message about COVID-19. During a time when everything about how we live and work has been upended, it’s important to step back from selling products and services and adapt your communications. But to do this in an authentic way, you first have to understand how your customers’ needs and behaviours have changed. Without the luxury of time.
“Nothing is more authentic than being transparent and empathetic.”
VP, Marketing Strategy and Communications, Adobe
Staying nimble when nothing is normal
We’ve always promoted the benefits of a strong digital foundation. But COVID-19 put them front and centre. Without the right technology and infrastructure, it’s hard to pivot quickly and keep pivoting as the situation changes.
As soon as the COVID-19 situation intensified in Asia and started spreading globally, we activated our crisis response team. Like many companies, our first priority was and has always been to protect the health and safety of our employees and their families first, as well as our customers and the communities where we live and work. We made the important decision to start closing offices around the world and support our employees as they quickly shifted to working from home.
Stacy Martinet, VP of marketing strategy and communications, gathered her team to collaborate on crisis management best practices and monitor employee sentiment, to inform our forward-looking response plan. The group consulted daily with our COVID-19 committee and engaged an external agency for real-time market and industry updates. Regular consultation with internal and external stakeholders was critical as key messaging was evolving at a fast rate.
We also kept in touch to several customers to gain perspective on what was happening in each industry, so we could arm our teams with helpful and relevant information.
We focused our communications strategy around key themes, transparency, clarity and empathy. These themes were not new to meet the moment — they’ve always been a part of Adobe’s culture — but when faced with a global pandemic, it’s really all about that.
As our key messaging was developed, it was cascaded to employees, customers and our community across multiple platforms, engaging Adobe leadership and collaborating with key stakeholders across the company.
We did this by leveraging existing platforms and creating new channels. For employees, we re-designed pages on Inside Adobe, our company-wide intranet, to prioritise COVID-19 updates, launched dedicated Slack channels and held regular employee meetings and town halls.
To connect our internal efforts with our customers, we launched our Honour Heroes campaign, galvanising the creative community to create emotional personal tributes to friends and relatives on the frontline. We launched programmes to engage our community to #StayInStayInspired, from Adobe Fresco-enabled Colouring books to a partnership with Time for Kids—Draw with Us! to help engage thousands of kids who were schooling from home. And we quickly created a comprehensive COVID-19 section on Adobe.com to ensure our customers had the support and resources they needed to navigate this challenging time.
We also piloted “Digital Emergency Preparedness” theme in a webinar with the American Marketing Association. The response was extremely positive, so we adapted it for the different industries. This, too, was well received because it provided an in-depth view of how others in their industry were responding to COVID. And it engendered a sense of community.
Martinet says having a robust digital foundation gave us the agility to create, personalise and deliver new messaging as fast as we did and the ability to monitor and measure sentiment to inform the next steps. But she also credits stakeholder trust, an expert team, great collaboration and a strong connection to their communities and customers.
“Digital is foundational. Employees are number one. Customers matter more than ever. Those are what business leaders should be thinking about at the moment.”
VP, Marketing Strategy and Communications, Adobe
Don’t just be agile, be authentic
Other businesses understand that, too. India’s 1mg provides a marketplace for medicines and medical services and was one of the first companies to clarify confusion about COVID-19 online. The company has always focused its communications on trusted relationships. Since the pandemic began, they’ve seen many of their users keep in touch to them seeking a single, reliable source of information. With around 14 million active online users per month, they were able to quickly send emails at scale, which nearly doubled their engagement on customer platforms. “This has been the key motivation behind our COVID-19 strategy, says Prateek Verma, leader of product, design and marketing at 1mg.
Delta Air Lines is another example. They started sending weekly emails from their CEO, Ed Bastian, titled “Updates from Ed” about what they’re doing to protect customers’ well-being, how they’re dealing with cancelled travel plans and how they’re helping those on the front line.
Send communications and support to your employees
Equally important during this time is letting your employees know how you are supporting them. Send regular communications and establish two-way channels to ensure that they stay connected and informed. DXT Technologies created an Employee Health and Communication Crisis app for employees to check in about their health, get help, get information about COVID-19 and receive alerts about important company news. At Adobe, we all receive a weekly communication titled “Take 5 with Adobe.” These cover COVID-19 updates, how to stay connected to our teams, how to get help and ways Adobe is supporting the community — such our #HonorHeroes campaign that was featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
With Inside Adobe, we’ve managed content for more than 50 locations in one site while personalising the experience, so that employees are exposed to the most important and relevant information for them.
The OneWalmart intranet has become a daily habit for many Walmart employees. With more than one million unique visitors every month, it’s become a destination not only for things like work schedules and benefits, but also to showcase employee stories, resources for community impact work and more. When done right, an intranet becomes more than just a storehouse for documents and PowerPoints. It provides a sense of stability and ensures that in both good times and bad, employees always feel informed, engaged and looked after.
Collaboration is also essential. We’ve probably all become adept at using video conferencing tools in the past few months. But there are many other ways to encourage collaboration, such as empowering your teams with digital tools like pdfs, digital forms, e-signatures and asset sharing.
And lastly, don’t forget we’re all having to face these challenges in our own ways. “I’ve seen a level of bravery that I don’t think people knew they had,” says Martinet. “For people around the world to cope with this pandemic, get up and face the world from their personal space— a bravery has emerged that is truly inspiring.”
The right message, the right way
What you say during a pandemic — and how you say it — is just as important as what you do. Speak authentically and show you understand their needs. With a good digital foundation in place, you can pivot your communications quickly — communicating with both your customers and your employees. And that will have lasting benefits.
Invest in a robust digital foundation to increase your ability to quickly pivot your messaging — and to keep pivoting as the situation changes.
Involve leadership and key stakeholders in developing a strategic COVID-19 communications plan.
Be authentic, helpful and relevant in all of your messaging — to both customers and employees.
Let your customers and communities know how you can help when they need it most.
Use collaboration tools and two-way channels to keep your employees connected and informed when working remotely or furloughed.
Explore other lessons online
Read each of the six lessons for adapting and advancing during a pandemic.
How customer data and our field marketing team helped us quickly pivot our strategy. Plus, how NASCAR used digital tech to understand vast new audiences when they moved their races online.
How our crisis response team created new messaging and rolled it out in just a few weeks. And how medicine marketplace 1mg sent emails to 14 million users to clarify confusion about COVID-19.
How we stayed connected to our customers. Also, how Vitamix is using food to bring people together. And how theatre companies and orchestras are finding new ways to keep their audiences engaged.
What we learnt from moving Adobe Summit online in just three weeks. Also, how Australia’s NSW Department of Education is using what they learnt from last year’s bush fires during COVID-19.
How we’re meeting the needs of our remote workforce. Also, what retailers everywhere are discovering. And how TSB Bank rethought their digital services and what they gained.
How we’re using our online learning community could help our customers. And how COVID-19 became the proving grounds for the US Census Bureau’s digital efforts.
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