News & Opinion

Working with media in times of crisis

Insight director Denise Turner writes about how trusted brands should operate in the new media environment. 

Earlier this week I was delighted to take part in a webinar run by the World Media Group, a collective of major global publications.

The webinar, and ten panellists involved, set out to address the question of the role of trusted media in times of crisis. 

It goes without saying that we are living in unprecedented times both in the UK and globally. So I was interested to explore the commonalities between the UK and the global stage – and spoiler alert, there are lot of similarities.

For me there are four key themes:

  1. The need for trustworthy content has never been greater. People are turning to published brands, both in the UK and globally, in greater numbers. We’ve seen news brand subscriptions (both print and digital) increase, traffic to news brand websites is up around 50% on average, and people are spending longer with content, and engaging more. We’ve been living in an era of fake news for a while now, but we know from previous Newsworks research, that people are turning more to established published media brands.
  2. This crisis is a timely reminder that we market to people, not machines. All of the brand representatives on the panel talked about the humanity in what we do. This is first and foremost a humanitarian crisis, and as a marketing and publishing community, we need to respond appropriately.
  3. Brands are developing a new language of marketing – that of humility. It’s about getting real, not over-promising and about recognising the role that brands can play, without overdoing it.
  4. This is not the new normal, rather it’s a recalibration, or a reset. Things won’t go back to how they were before, but neither will we in marketing and publishing remain in this short-term situation. As one of the panellists Janet Balis from EY Advisory put it, we need to be already thinking about the future and not get stuck in the now.

Janet’s comment reminded me of something I heard a few years ago. I had the immense privilege of listening to the late Baroness Tessa Jowell speak at a dinner. One thing she said has stuck with me ever since, and I often refer to it, when something is bothering me or I’m facing a particular challenge.

She talked about the importance of a ‘centrifugal moment’. Now I’m not a scientist, but I know that a centrifuge moves very fast and shakes things up somewhat! Baroness Tessa was referring to a particular moment when she almost gave up being an MP, but something happened to turn things around completely.

We are in a centrifugal moment right now. How we react to it, both in the now, but also preparing for the future, will ensure we emerge from this even stronger than before.

Denise Turner 02/04/20

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