According to Madelain Roscher, Managing Director of PR Worx, global trends increasingly show that consumers will spend their hard-earned money on brands that are willing to take the time to truly listen to them, understand their needs, and in turn, create products and services that really benefit them.

As we edge closer to the end of one of the most difficult years in recent human history, many will agree that it was a year that required resilience on all fronts and companies and brands realised the importance of Public Relations (PR) as a medium to engage and build long-lasting connections.

Despite advances in digital adoption, with Covid statistics spiking in wave two, the pressure is mounting to interface remotely again. The last nine months have shown that no amount of digitalisation, including chatbots, can replace the importance of communication. Companies that have put authentic and considerate communications front and centre of their businesses continue to thrive.

Take Airbnb as an example. Due to global lockdowns, the company’s whole model was threatened to a point that it almost filed for bankruptcy. However, by listening to their stakeholders, Airbnb was able to develop new offerings that catered for what their customers needed during an unending pandemic. The business heard its customers when they said that remote workers wanted to stay away from larger, busy hotel groups and rather wanted to stay at long-term rentals, while executives were looking for experiences and luxury listings.

Through cost-cutting strategies, but more so, by focusing on its consumers’ core needs, understanding, and addressing their emotional and physical requirements, and implementing internal communications’ methodologies of care and respect for staff, Airbnb turned its business turn around. They recently listed the biggest initial public offering (IPO) in the United States. It is exactly this inherent understanding of consumer behaviour, and integrating public relations as a critical business tool, that have helped organisations across the world to not only adapt their strategies but to thrive during some of the toughest economic conditions.

While organisations commonly cut their marketing or PR spend to reduce bottom-line expenses, decades of research prove that companies that continue to market during a recession will recover quicker. The recent CMO Survey and The Merkle Research report saw US companies increasing their marketing-communications spend during the Covid-19-periods, with companies investing heavily in social media platforms as direct sales tools, new marketing technologies, customer-centricity initiatives and transaction fulfilment capabilities. 

As with Airbnb, it is the companies that adapt to consumers’ needs, that find new and engaging platforms for communications and direct interaction, and that recognise the importance of being top of mind in times of hardships, that will continue to grow and prosper.

The findings are clear. 2021 will require brands to personify and humanise their clients’ values, vision and objectives to establish real and lasting relationships with their target audiences.