It is coming up for a year since I wrote a blog on being more emotionally honest in business. Never in a million years did I see the pandemic coming and think that it would be such an agent for change. I say this with the utmost respect for those who have had it a lot worse than me. I cannot imagine the difficulties of working on the front line, and I have been lucky not to have lost any loved ones. But even with my relatively trivial experiences, it is clear that we have all been affected by the impact of 2020.
When I wrote the original blog last year, I know that I wanted to be more transparent as a business owner, and I was beginning to question the companies and brands that I was coming across and shopping with. I have to say this wasn’t a short journey for me. I am a working mum and have a six-year-old.
It was the realisation that I was creating a mini-me that made me start thinking about the messages I was passing on. Was I showing the importance of being in the moment? Was I teaching the long-term benefits of taking time out to recharge? Was I passing on good values when it came to shopping, eating, cooking, thinking and speaking? This all came to a head at the end of 2019 when I went on my first political rally and took my little one with me.
I have always been told I think a little differently. I think for the most part, I am pretty good at reading situations and human behaviour. I love the idea of neuroplasticity – the idea that your brain can adapt to what it is being ‘fed’. This, coupled with a love of marketing and storytelling, has led to a stronger desire for greater authenticity in marketing. We have talked about emotional honesty in business for a few years, but the pandemic has accelerated the need for greater truth in business storytelling.
Effective content and communication
This feeling is backed up by recent research from IAB UK and YouGov, which revealed that the way brands have acted and communicated during the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have a long-term impact on their business. 79% of people asked said that they are likely to favour brands that have behaved well during the crisis, with clear and frequent communication.
Elizabeth Lane, Head of Research and Measurement at IAB UK, says: “With so much uncertainty in our daily lives at the moment, it’s clear that consumers want more, not less, communication from brands. This crisis has highlighted stark differences in people’s feelings towards those that they feel have reacted well and those that they see as having behaved poorly. It is those brands that have kept consumers informed, reassured and continue to deliver a reliable service that stand to gain.”
This made me question just how much information we as a business gave away and what the best way is to get your voice across without helping hackers or social media giants collect all your personal data. I realised even for a micro business like ours, there are a few things that can help get your story out there.
Here is what we came up with:
1. Be brave – Some people may love that your business is the smaller, boutique variety. When everyone seemed to go back to the office or invested in banners to sit behind them on Zoom calls, I continued to show where I am working from. In fact, one of my most successful LinkedIn posts was the image of my working space and new artwork. We set up our business to be a cloud-based, outsourced solution, and after 11 years in business with some great clients and an amazing network of associates, I am past caring if people think we need an expensive flashy office to show you how good we are at what we do.
2. My business partner is my husband. The first lockdown was really hard for us as we were home-schooling and running the business across very long days. It was a case of getting on with the work and luckily, we were able to continue working throughout. The pandemic has meant I have had to explain more to clients about our home life. In our ‘let’s just get through this routine’, they had to speak to my husband or me, and we might have a little person in tow. The transparency forced upon us by the pandemic has actually been very freeing in terms of how we tell our story.
3. We write a lot of content for clients, and much of it is uses very technical terms or acronyms. The pandemic has meant that brands are more open to using different tones in languages and writing styles, which has been a delight.
As we near the end of 2020 and with no clear sight of how things might change, the question I carry into all my meetings is “How emotionally honest are you in your business?” We all need to review our messages, what we offer and how we offer it in our marketing planning with that thought in mind.
But alongside that, make sure you examine your tone of voice and the language that you use. Get the balance right about what and how you share your story, and don’t be afraid to open up and let people see the real you. In the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Brands and the Coronavirus, 60% of people asked agreed with the statement: “In this time of crisis, I am turning more and more to the brands that I am absolutely sure that I can trust.”
For them to trust you, they have to know you better.