How can providers manage social and community perceptions during COVID-19?

4 years ago
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Unfortunately, there is no marketing and communications playbook for managing a global health crisis like COVID-19. Professional marketers, agencies, PR firms and communicators are collaborating, discussing and disagreeing around the globe on what, why and how we can continue to support our brands, businesses, and our target audiences.

The brave quickly paused their in-market campaigns until an assessment had been conducted to ascertain what changes would be required as a priority. At Mirus Australia, we focused on internal communication, client communication and then our demand and lead generation campaigns, and in that order. The brand ‘hacks’ started to draft emails asking, “how can we help you during these unprecedented times?”

And what about aged care providers?
Some providers responded quickly with COVID-19 action or response plans clearly communicating to their target audiences, some continued with seemingly ‘business as usual’ communication and some are still not using their social media networks or websites, as channels. For many, the messaging has been a melting pot of regurgitated resources from the Department of Health.

Are people still going to ‘buy’ care?
Together, may we assume the answer is yes. There is a general consensus that in times of uncertainty consumers want consistent messages from brands they trust. However, the precarious balancing act is to consider any creative that would appear insensitive and not reflect what changes are impacting all of our lives. Social distancing is a case in point.

Can we learn from a previous crisis?
An example: A paper was published in 20061 based on the Rapid Participatory Assessment or RPA following the 2002 and 2005 terrorist bomb attacks in Kuta and Denpasar, Bali. A local radio network in a rural village of Tulikup, Bali commissioned the assessment in order to develop a communication strategy for both health and social development. The papers states that given its strong emphasis on community participation, RPA methodology is commonly used in developing countries to gain insight into a community’s own perspectives of needs.

In summary, data and interviews were planned, collected and analysed with stakeholders as a first step to include the community in assessing the needs and planning future strategies. In this example, a community radio network was utilised to promote social change and development and become the “voice of the community”.

How do you build ‘social currency’ in your social & community connections?
Start by asking the following questions to understand the voice of your own community:

  1. Who is your community? Consider the entire eco-system of staff, volunteers, residents, families and friends, business partners, vendors, contractors and local businesses.
  2. What are they feeling? The four strongest human emotions (not all of them of course) are generally happiness, sadness, fear and anger. How can you support or alleviate these emotions?
  3. How and how often are you collecting or monitoring this information? What people, process, system or technology do you have to collect feedback or sentiment.
  4. What is the community’s perception on how your organisation is managing and how quickly are you responding to feedback or changing conditions?
  5. How have the needs of your community and potential clients changed?
  6. How are you changing your social and community ‘business as usual’ channels to support the current environment? Are you updating your FAQs, eBooks, infographics and guides, as an example?

According to social media users in Australia are some of the most active in the world, with a total of around 60% of the country’s population active on Facebook, and 50% of the country logging onto Facebook at least once a day. Facebook has 16m monthly active Australian users and 3m of those active users are over the age of 55.

Are you using this channel for live chats, real-time engagement and is it resonating with your audience and how are you measuring that?

Please stay connected and continue to:
• Share what you care about.
• Share what will have value to others.
• Share more stories.

Your community will remember how you handled this. Provide more space, time and opportunities to connect with the stories in and around your organisation.
Brands with stories are personal, human and ultimately more memorable especially in times of significant change and disruption and will continue to help you shape perception.

Amanda Jones is Chief Marketing Officer at Mirus Australia

(1) Understanding community perceptions of health and social needs in a rural Balinese village: results of a rapid participatory appraisal, 11 December 2006, Elisa Pepall, Jaya Earnest, Ross James
(2) Statistics compiled by for March 2020. Source: Vivid Social – Social Media Agency. Figures correct as of 31/03/20