The Covid-19 pandemic has turned many industries on their heads in 2020, triggering uncertainty and anxiety, while begging the question; "where to from here?"
There have been job losses, salary cuts, recruitment freezes, and large-scale curtailment of production. The way we work has been changed - adapting to working from home hasn't been a seamless process for some. As a result, strategic plans have had to be drawn up during this time in order to figure out how to keep afloat in a deep sea of financial turbulence.
Outside of the medical and science fields, which are fighting tooth and nail against this virus, various industry experts have also been data analysing, forecasting, and researching its impact.
With over 30 years of experience in the fashion industry, stylist and art director turned entrepreneur, Lorraine Maisel, has had a finger on the pulse of current societal events for quite some time, which makes her a fitting candidate to get insights from with regards the current fashion and PR climate.
Here, Lorriane answers a few questions about how this pandemic will affect fashion and PR, and the relationship thereof.
Covid-19 has halted the steady flow in which PR operates on a day-to-day basis. In your opinion, how can a PR agency plug in and stay relevant during this uneasy time?
PR agencies are a vital part of handling crises. In my opinion, this is the best time in which PR agencies should be used to ensure that a brand remains relevant and that it stays at the top of the audience’s mind. Retail is going to take strain in different aspects relating to the ways in which consumers, consume. We as agencies must take care of our clients during this unstable time and we must assist in establishing exciting content and campaigns to ensure that there is consistent talkability and brand value in the consumer’s eyes. Identifying key channels (i.e. social media) followed by brainstorming how to spark an interest and lastly, stellar execution.
Fashion PR is at the forefront of change, or is it? What are your views? What effects do you think Covid-19 will have on brands going forward in SA?
Let me start by saying that PR is not what it used to be two years ago, PR is definitely not what it used to be five years ago and PR has completely turned upside down in the last 10 years.
There are going to be different outlooks when it comes to shopping and consumer behavior. Consumers are going to take careful note of the value that something like a non-perishable adds to their lifestyles. People’s priorities are going to change, and we need to be gentler with the consumer and give them a valuable product with meaningful experiences. The consumption of products (regardless of its division) will be lessened and I think that people are going to spend their money on valuable items (not in the monetary sense) that are going to ensure that life has more meaning for them.
From a South African fashion industry perspective, what advice can you give small brands that want to engage in PR, but can't due to budget restrictions?
Budget restrictions are always a problem when it comes to smaller brands, however, if I can give one piece of advice, it would be to ensure that you are engaging in a holistic brand experience whilst harbouring effective relationships (with your customers, friends of the brand and media) along the way.
The brand must evoke an emotion and there has to be a feeling to it because now, it’s more than just taking something off of the shelf or adding it your online cart. If Covid-19 has taught me anything through pure observation, it’s that consumers are not going to spend recklessly until their financial situation stabilises, but will eventually have the financial capacity to invest in your product if it means that they get more than just the tangibles out of it.
Another tip would be to find that exclusivity factor in your brand, this will create a natural avenue to leverage off from a PR perspective. It’s not always about mass market so remember to be unique.
Let's talk about team encouragement both in and out of the workplace, why is it important and how do you go about it?
As someone who is extroverted and outspoken, lockdown has been extremely confining but rewarding in that I have had the opportunity to take a step back and re-evaluate my personal environment, lifestyle and work. My teams and I have a daily meeting at 9:30am sharp and we discuss various topics around both work and personal spheres. I believe that it is vital to encourage my team to push the conversation and maintain a stable balance especially when working from home during this time. Being part of something bigger is what PR is about I always use this example when encouraging my team.
Will Covid-19 change the way in which you live your life?
Yes, it will 100% change the way in which I live my life. In PR we always refer to the journey that we have with our brands and it’s not about going into a cold, calculated store and buying something that catches your eye anymore – it’s about the increasing levels of expectation. Service delivery is going to change with simplified means of living.
Your mantra to get through the lockdown?
Think big, expand your thinking and your situation will soon follow.
Image and additional information provided by Styling Concepts.