akhia Taps Into Agencies Around the Globe for Insights About COVID-19 Responses

At akhia communications, we belong to a network of communications agencies that spans the globe. This network, called IPRN (International Public Relations Network), includes agencies from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and beyond. We’ve been in this group for five years now, and membership enables us to help clients with their international communications needs. 
Recently, the group met virtually to discuss how COVID-19 is affecting their agencies and their clients. Collectively we agreed on many points, while representatives from individual nations shared additional points of view and further insight. From around the globe, here is some of what international agencies are saying.

Thinking Together. Collective Alignment.
While our discussion hit on many varied points, we all agreed on the following:

-Employees and clients fall into two groups—those who fear returning to work and those who are eager to start their new normal. Communication will need to sensitively bridge these two opposing value systems. 

-In either case, employees and clients are feeling overwhelmed, trying to manage their workloads while home-schooling children under the most difficult of circumstances. Trim communication to what’s necessary and of value only; be brief, succinct and to the point so as not to contribute to communication overload.

-Leadership is key. Employees and clients want agencies to take the lead. Show them new ways to do things and help them through their difficult circumstances. Tone is critical; a leader’s tone should match the seriousness of the situation. For example, attempts at levity will likely fall flat.  

-In a similar way, brands should turn off promotion and turn on information. They need to focus on being people-centric, trying to find ways to help solve people’s problems and meet their needs. This is the best way to relate to their customers’ new realities. Follow the outstanding examples by major brands such as Microsoft and Facebook.

Timely Observations. New Strategies.
Digging a little deeper to more specific thinking, representatives from various agencies shared what they’re doing, what they expect and what they recommend in a COVID-19-centric world.

From Presigno Communications in Germany: Crisis communication moved from being a preventive measure to an action measure, i.e., finding ways to help clients immediately with new and urgent needs. The agency began offering complimentary, one-hour digital consults. The sessions are promoted via their social media channels and each begins with a 10-minute overview of a relevant topic such as live streaming, virtual trade shows and digital sales tools. The agency also created an in-office studio to help clients whose trade shows had been canceled, letting them film speakers and then assisting with promotion of the virtual event. Finally, they created a “spring cleaning” checklist of items agencies and clients could consider while work has slowed, such as improving efficiency of internal processes, data management systems and crisis plans, along with testing value statements, competitive reviews and voice of the customer research.
From JP|KOM in Germany: This group changed their new business targets from OEMs, parts manufacturers and financial services to online retailers, energy, waste management, insurance, healthcare and government agencies. And they changed their service offerings from traditional marketing to digital conferences and events, video lunch & learns (where they send food in advance) and podcasts. JP|KOM said their most important change was quickly adapting their own website to reflect a broader “digital” focus for today’s new wave on online and virtual strategies.

From Alana Consultores de Comunicacion in Spain: This agency identified their top three concerns during the crisis as the safety and well-being of employees, cash flow and staying relevant to clients. The agency is 100% focused on their ability to reshape themselves for new communications challenges. They believe credibility will be a decisive factor in all working relationships and that leadership makes all the difference as clients look to navigate new and choppy waters. And the good news is, they see opportunities with the news media who need good, credible sources more than ever.
From PR Partner in Russia: This team created Zoom teaching marathons to roll out a client’s new travel service. The goal was to create buzz among travel agents. The 30- to 60-minute sessions were promoted as a game that enabled players to “visit” multiple parts of the world by clicking on new links each week. The first arrived inside a Rubik’s Cube to reveal the initial link. The agency hoped that bringing a lighter approach might break through the dreariness of COVID-19 communications, and it worked. The campaign helped increase sales by 15%.
Around the World in One Virtual Meeting
Though located in multiple regions throughout the world, the participating agencies agreed on one factor—communication will look, feel and be different in the post-COVID-19 world. Where we have been is not where we are going, and it’s crucial to be ready and to have resources and connections with information, experience and expertise to help navigate the way forward. At home and all over the world.