The words ‘21st June’ had barely been uttered last week when the memes started. Summer plans shared online, jokes about booking the day off, jokes about… getting really, really drunk.
There’s a big theme emerging for the summer already: a long-planned release of pent up hedonism. And it’s going to be a challenge for drink brands to find a route through this and get the tone right - celebratory, but responsible.
And for venues - how should they plan to communicate this summer? What does the reopening roadmap mean for the industry from a comms and planning point of view?
Here are our five tips to help make a realistic plan for reopening comms and marketing as we head into summer 2021, with whatever it might bring.
'Building your comms plan around a fixed idea or date is a risk. Taking a more measured, flexible approach is essential'
1. Don’t try to ‘own’ reopening. If 2020-21 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be prepared to be flexible. While we all hope that this summer will see the back of Covid, it’s entirely possible that restrictions might not disappear completely, or not on the planned date (or even, hell, come back again).
Building your comms plan for the year around a fixed idea or date is a risk. Taking a more measured, flexible approach that doesn't focus on the timeline from the start is essential.
Plus, as a practical point, though production and supply will likely increase, let’s not forget all the wastage from the last “big opening”. If we rush to supply pubs with car parks full of kegs and lockdown rears its ugly head again it could cost pub owners a lot. So let’s be ready to supply… with caution!
2. Consider practical and design-led ways to keep drinkers and customers safe - for brands and bars. Venues might be really busy but it’s likely we’ll still need to socially distance. If you have an RTD version of your drink or can be reformatted into a faster serve, for example, start training your biggest distribution channels now. Train staff, rejig venues - and make sure all of these things are communicated to customers ahead of time and in-venue.
3. Keep an eye on social platforms. While we’re sure that every brand and venue is cautious and responsible, it’s easy to be distracted by memes and for shaky content to creep onto social pages, either from fans or junior team members. It’s tempting to promote countdowns, partying hard and similar, but it’s vital to proceed with caution, to keep that duty of care for customers in mind.
4. Remember to keep prioritising those who interact with the public - and to communicate this too. In this case, this means both hospitality staff (bartenders etc) and hospital staff (doctors and nurses). We're all excited! But bartenders have likely been out of work, furloughed or on reduced wages for a long time now. Suddenly placing a huge amount of stress on them is not good. Your brand can be the voice to remind people to be respectful. If they got your order wrong, be cool, calmly order another, be courteous - or just drink it, there's no need to start berating people. And as for the doctors and nurses who have already worked insane hours and in awful conditions, they don't need an A&E filled with drunks. So be careful! And be sure to thank and respect the people that have got us out of this mess in your comms and actions.
5. Getting the tone right will be a challenge, but, focusing on the things that are close to certain, and that we have all really missed, will be a safe bet. We will be, in some way, starting to reconnect - the dates may change, the format may differ - and some people may have come out of lockdown having reevaluated their relationship with alcohol altogether. Your venue might have families nearby, desperate to have a Sunday lunch together, just as much as young people who really want to see their mates en route to a club. Comms need to be inclusive and make space for everyone to come and be together again.