In years to come, marketing and communication courses will be littered with case studies and lessons about how brands behaved in the great COVID-19 crisis of 2020.  Not a day, or likely hour goes by, without reference to this being an “unprecedented”, “unchartered”, “extraordinary” time, for which it truly is. But equally this means that there is no well-thumbed brand book from which to guide our paths.  

Since the crisis enveloped our lives, we’ve seen remarkable actions by individuals, brands and companies.  Adversity can really bring out the best in people. But it’s also left a lot of healthcare brands feeling a sense of inadequacy.  Their budgets don’t stretch to gestures of Coca-Cola grandiose proportions, and their products feel … well all a bit trivial in the context of this life-threatening crisis.

In a world where successful communication relies upon capturing attention, the question that many healthcare brands are contemplating, is whether there’s a role for them at this time or whether the sign should simply read ‘Gone to ground, hope to be back in six months’ time … survival allowing” for fear of looking opportunistic, irrelevant or disingenuous.      

This is especially so for pharmaceutical or medical brands when the very people they rely on to prescribe, procure, dispense or recommend their products or services are likely facing far greater challenges on the COVID-19 front line.    

So, it was heartening to read research recently released by Opinion Research which confirmed that far from wanting brands to retreat from their lives, the majority of consumers wanted to hear as much or more from them.  Healthcare and pharma topped the list with 39% wanting to hear more from them at this time.  

At a time when doctors, nurses and pharmacists are stretched beyond belief, healthcare brands have a greater role than ever before in manning the nation’s health and wellbeing ship.  Because sadly, disease, illness and ailments still happen.  

So now is not the time to go dark dear healthcare brands.  Your consumers and patients need you.  

Faced with treatment uncertainty and health anxiety, there is an overwhelming need for practical information and support.   

With more time spent online, across a variety of devices, people are looking to social media and websites for trusted information, education, human connection (and may be a little levity).  If handled with sensitivity and with a clear purpose, brands can continue to post social content and engage with their audience.

While earnt media still has a significant focus on COVID-19, we are seeing a number of journalists requesting softer PR stories to populate their feeds and sustain our insatiable appetite for online news and lifestyle content.  

At the time when the nations’ health is facing its biggest ever challenge, brands need to rise and appropriately play their part.  Leading by example, partnering with experts, patient groups and advocates, with a new sense of purpose to walk alongside consumers and patients on their healthcare journey and be a force for good health.