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Date: 17 Aug 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted the marketplace and accelerated the move towards digitization, which is now embraced even by traditional “brick and mortar” industries.

Digital transformation is certainly the first imperative for businesses and brands to reimagine themselves for the new marketplace in this Covid-19 era. In fact, businesses, big or small (including mom and pop shops, and even street hawkers), are now transforming to embrace digital in one form or another, at a speed we have never seen before.

The second imperative would be health and safety. The health and safety agenda is now a key aspect of organisations, be it from a workplace or store-front perspective. The paradigm shift towards health and safety is now enterprise-wide and involves a much wider value chain than before. An example of this would be the growth of contact tracing apps, as well as the sale of contactless temperature gauges, medical grade rubber gloves, hand sanitizers, disinfectants, etc.

The Health & Safety imperative even calls for interior designers and even property developers to rethink and reimagine the workplace and store front – from contactless office automation to social-distanced office spaces and stores. Considering the health and safety aspect of workers and customers, the evolving trend of work from home, virtual meetings, and even corporate travel have certainly disrupted the way we think about communication and collaboration.

The third imperative, which may not be on the top of mind for most of us right now, is the purpose-driven imperative. This will be the game-changer to future-proof your organisation or brand, particularly as the impact of Covid-19 is expected to keep market conditions volatile in the short to mid-term. Within such an environment, people are looking for steady leadership and certainty. In this regard, most are still unaware or have yet to realise that profit with a purpose is set to sweep the marketplace at an accelerated pace post-Covid-19.

The disruption by Covid-19, the greatest global war since the Second World War, has awoken the marketplace. The global war against an invincible and invisible enemy has put governments and each and every one of us under tremendous pressure, hitting right at the hearts and minds of every person as we have no idea when and where it will strike.

Time to Purposefully Reform, Reinvent, Reimagine

Moving forward, consumers and stakeholders will certainly expect the marketplace to change or “reform”. There is no going back to “business as usual” prior to the pandemic. Certainly, there are already signs of increased demand for companies and brands to operate with a “soul”. A recent Investor’s Watch survey interviewing 3,750 wealthy investors across 15 countries by UBS revealed that three quarters of investors anticipate permanent lifestyle shifts, with two thirds saying the pandemic has altered how they think about their finances.

Interestingly, the survey showed, while millennial investors are most concerned about having to work longer to make up for losses, having enough money saved and losing their job in the current environment, they want to see their money make societal impact. The data also indicated that 69% are interested in sustainable investing and 60% in philanthropy due to Covid-19.

On top of that, governments are now reviving their respective economies through various stimulus packages by investing in long-term development plans for the country, including sustainable infrastructure and human capital upskilling post-Covid-19. Again, this reflects the commitment from many of us around the world to change for the better.

The disruption brought on by the Covid-19 crisis presents a new opportunity for brands and organisations to reinvent and capture the imagination of the new marketplace. Moving forward, being purpose-driven is set to be a core narrative for brands and organisations that are committed to “reform”, “reimagine” and “reinvent” themselves for the new market.

As such, organisations need to dive deeper into their purpose as an organisation or brand. The power of “why” will help organisations and brands recover from this crisis and reinvent for the future. The purpose-driven imperative, which must be sustainable in the long term, must fit the dreams of our people, while generating meaningful returns for our shareholders and – at the same time – must have a genuine and authentic commitment to our planet.

The Covid-19 crisis is indeed our greatest opportunity (and for some of us, perhaps the last chance) to reboot the way we do businesses. This may perhaps be a rude awakening but there cannot be a clearer signal to all of us to “reform” and “reimagine” our businesses. If we do not change right now, we will certainly be swept away by this disruption.

No doubts, if we put purpose right at the heart of what we do right now, supported by consistent and authentic actions, we are set to build a reputation that will help us win in the new post-Covid-19 market.

Andy See is the Founder and Managing Director of Perspective Strategies, a strategic communications and issues management consultancy. He is also the President of the Public Relations and Communications Association of Malaysia (PRCA Malaysia) and Regional Vice President (Asia Pacific) for Public Relations Global Network.

This article was first published in the Public Relations Global Network Blog.

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