Launching a product during a pandemic: PR ins and outs

A research feature done by the Ministry of Trade & Industry of Singapore reveals that though the impact of COVID-19 has been significant, there are bright spots in the economy with the rise in demand for online sales and services. However, how the economy performs in the remaining quarters of the year will largely depend on the extent to which we are able to resume business activities safely.

As the crisis slows to a steady rate, it is crucial for businesses to continue running. And that encompasses launching new products and services.

This article explores how to launch a product during a pandemic, with a focus on Public Relations strategies.

What has changed?

To calibrate product launches during this time, it is important to understand what has changed. Generally speaking, the pandemic has caused major shifts for the three broad scales of production: the market, company and product. 

On the macro level, there is a fall in market demand due to changing consumer behaviours and habits. People have become more conservative in their spending. To top that off, if your product is not online then it is almost impossible to sell. And, market demand will plummet further.

On the other hand, most companies are currently facing issues related to mass contraction or frictional issues due to the difficulties of remote work. Prospect seems bleak.

Now lastly, the product level. If you’re thinking of launching a new product or promoting your current product you might be in tough luck. The pre-pandemic market is a whole different market than the post-pandemic one. If your product was meant for the previous market, you might have to rethink, reexamine and reshape the product to meet the current market’s needs. Lucky for you, we have some guidelines on how you can leverage PR to just that.

The role of PR

If the above-mentioned conditions dampened your mood, here’s a pick-me-up: According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, companies that invested in marketing during past global recessions flourished after the slowdown and outperformed rivals! Utilising PR at a time like this is crucial to get things going.

The PR landscape has gone through a digital transformation as an adaptive measure in light of the pandemic. There remain endless PR strategies that companies can tap into to maximise their outreach during a product launch. Here’s how:

Focus on the target market

Right now, the central concerns of human beings revolve around their health, families and jobs. Trying to reach them with a product that isn’t related to their present needs might not only fall on deaf ears but can possibly receive backlash.

On that note, it’s important to keep in mind that not all launches will make sense at this time. While some companies might be able to reframe their launches in a way that might suit the current social climate, it might not be possible for all products. 

Take a step back and reexamine your product from the eyes of your target audience, and predict how well (or badly) it might be received. If you think it might be received well, you can go a step further by offering exclusive discounts to frontline workers or donating a portion of your profits to an organisation that is helping with the COVID-19 pandemic. A simple gesture to show you care goes a long way. In short, you should put your customer – not your brand – first. 

We explore how leading companies leverage powerful storytelling.

Build consumer trust

This then brings us to the next point: trust. At this point, there is no legitimate trust built between your product and customers. The most crucial thing for you to engage in right now would be sensitive marketing. Through your marketing strategies, if you are able to connect during a time of disconnection,  then chances are, people will be drawn to your product. 

This does not mean manipulating medical information or using fear-tactics to garner more customers. People will see right through that. Shady messaging can be sieved out easily, in an instance.

One company that has built trust the right way is VSCO (Visual Supply Company), a photo and videography platform. In its recent product announcement, VSCO gently announced its new feature “Montage”, in a way that was refreshingly unique. 

Instead of shying away from the bleak reality or using fear-tactics, VSCO directly addressed the current situation and the universal challenges people are experiencing in this period. They then offered their product as a tool to help and connect people from around the world. 

Mindful and sensitive messaging can help build trust between your customer and product

We explore ways to deal with a PR crisis.

Advertise your product right — from “nice to have” to “must-have”

Now is not the time for people to indulge in purchases. People will only go the extra mile to make a purchase only if they feel it is absolutely necessary. Change your mantra to “help, not sell”. Instead of advertising “free gym memberships for the first 50 signups”, advertise “free signup for you to train in the comfort of your home”. 

Tweaking your product offering and marketing language might transform the reception of your product. The very same product, when seen in a different light, will be perceived very differently.

Road to recovery

As we go into the last quarter of the year where the crisis has slowed to a steady rate, businesses are finally (and fortunately) rebounding and a few key guidelines can help business owners calibrate how they should think about product launches during this new normal.

Businesses that maintain their PR efforts will be positioned to recover faster as the economy improves by preserving their brand awareness, or in some cases even growing it.

However in truth, whether there’s a pandemic or not, the problem of how to acquire a consumer base is one that is perpetual: the only difference now is that the problem has a different frame. Understanding that there is great potential during these testing times is likely to lead you to success. 

Keen to kickstart your brand’s journey and learn more about content marketing or PR? Drop us a message at hello(a)syncpr.co 

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