Part 1: Get your story straight

‘We should probably comment on this. Hmm, what can we say?’

Brands needing to react to the news is nothing new. But between a global pandemic and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, 2020 has made topical messaging pretty much a full-time job for marketing departments. And they’ve got big expectations to live up to as these days, we want the brands we buy from to show they care about social issues.

But topical messages can be a minefield. In this blog series, we’ll look at three ways to make sure you’re positively contributing to the conversation – and not just jumping on the bandwagon. And that starts with getting your story straight.

Your ad-hoc posts need something solid to back them up

It’s not enough to send out an email telling customers you’re committed to their safety at this difficult time, or post a #BlackoutTuesday black square on Instagram. Consumers are all-too-wary of the cookie cutter ‘social issue response’ from brands, as this post perfectly sums up:

To avoid looking like you’re paying lip service, your words need to be backed up by actions. In the case of Black Lives Matter, for example, are you championing Black voices in your content? Donating to organisations that fight racism? Changing your hiring practices to find more diverse talent?

And all of that needs to be backed up by a solid brand story – your purpose, values, vision and taglines. The core pieces of storytelling that will back up the more reactive messaging.

Now’s the time to reassess your messaging

A recent survey of UK Twitter users found that 93% of us don’t want brands to go back to their pre-Covid messaging. So if there was ever a good time to re-jig how you talk about your business, it’s now.

Gather together the core pieces of your brand story – usually found on your website About Us and your brand positioning documents - and take a long, hard look at them. Do they hold up in 2020? Or, like KFC’s Finger Lickin’ Good, do they suddenly feel out of step?

Sort your brand messaging into what you can keep, what you need to update, and what needs to go. And don’t forget to involve all your teams. Make it a diverse group and ask them what they think your brand stands for, what it means to them. Because that’s where you’ll find a truly authentic story.

Of course, once you’ve figured out what your story is, you need to work on how you say it. More on that in part 2 of this series…

This blog is part of series on communicating topical messages, without sounding like you’re just jumping on the bandwagon. You can read part two here.

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