THURSDAY 15 JUL 2021 3:06 PM


Lizzie Rabone, EMEA predictive analytics consultant at Edelman Data x Intelligence, discussed the ways communications has evolved this past year, and how brands can drive purpose to resonate with virtual and real life communities.

The pandemic has drastically changed how we communicate with each other. That friend who used to call you out for looking at your phone too much at dinner, only exists for you now as a picture on that same phone. Our physical world shrank to the four walls we were bouncing off and our emotional and social lives were eroded in a multiplicity of other ways. We put in the time on Zoom calls and epic WhatsApp threads to connect with our nearest and dearest, but we missed interactions with strangers, colleagues and wider circles of friends.

That Feeling of Belonging

Articles have pointed to the damage done to our ‘social biome’ as the diversity of our social interactions was curtailed. Even if we spent hours a day in unprecedented deep-and-meaningfuls with the few people we still spoke to, we still missed the buzz of the office, a ‘hello’ with neighbours, a little joke with a waiter. Beyond missing individuals, we also missed being in a group and the sense of belonging that comes with working towards a common goal. Without the physical office to connect us, it was easy to lose the visibility of our shared purpose. We started to feel distant from the company’s mission, even though many of us logged more hours than ever.

Outside of work, we were equally hungry for meaning and ready to invest in shared causes. Social media invited us to come together around societal movements, including Black Lives Matter, #StopAsianHate and discussions of the Sarah Everard case. We used the internet to start these conversations, but those conversations quickly turned to the need for action.

In a world robbed of shared physical space, digital space has to work even harder. Virtual landscapes must provide community solutions to problems that the real world currently cannot.

How Should Brands Respond?

Using digital space and solutions for real-world problems is where brands can make an impact. They must move quickly on societal issues to keep up with the global news cycle and the increasingly high expectations of their audiences. Showing that their values align with those of their key audiences is vital, but they must also act in accordance with the values they profess. Empty words will do more harm than good.

So, brands need to meet the audience where they are (at home and online) with something that responds to their emotional needs. Many of us crave connection, purpose, distraction, and the chance to contribute to a better world. Finding a way to do that remotely is key. Our Samsung Wildlife Watch did just that. Every year, over 30,000 species are driven to extinction due to poaching, and Covid made that worse with fewer rangers and tourists to patrol the plains. To help tackle this, we upcycled Samsung phones to live stream from across the African plains, turning home audiences into a worldwide troop of virtual rangers. Over 195,650 people have taken the watch so far.

Similarly, in response to George Floyd’s murder, we launched a ‘Father’s Day Taken’ campaign for our client Dove Men+ Care, which allowed audiences to donate the cost of a Father’s Day Card to families who have lost fathers in similar circumstances. To date, the fund has delivered over $300,000 in grants to over 100 families.

Now, as the UK begins to open up– hopefully for good - we will see the landscape shift once again. With people no longer confined to their homes, brands, organisations and communities will have to establish new ways of being to accommodate a hybrid culture or work and life, where real world and digital world experiences can exist seamlessly alongside each other.