by Jim James
Founder of EASTWEST Public Relations.
The whole area of business where people are hands on and close to each other, whether in sports, restaurants, or lifestyle, has one obvious and major obstacle during these COVID times: a lack of confidence. Consumers now doubt their safety in these kinds of places, which brings to focus the rebuilding of trust in an organisation’s handling of hygiene. Before COVID, unless a restaurant had a one-star rating, hygiene was not that big of a deal. This was based on the assumption that all establishments conformed to the necessary standard. Now that standards have been increased, the public does not necessarily trust anymore these standards that are being followed. Many companies and organisations now have to communicate and reasssure people that they are taking the necessary action and are safeguarding the well-being of their staff and customers as they come and go into their facilities.
Don’t trust a ‘furu’
Brian Hill talks about the word "furu," which originated from Norway and is a type of pine tree, but he considers it "fake guru." The term stands for someone pretending to be good, but in reality, they are not. This is something that is taking place among many industries from financial services, to healthcare, to coaching, and anywhere where individuals are practicing with or without qualifications.
The International Coaching Federation, the largest organisation in the United States, believes that their number of coaches has grown to approximately 55,000 worldwide. In comparison to the UK alone, which was over 109,000 employed and self-employed sports coaches and instructors, 55,000 seems small. These numbers do not even represent dentists or any other services that involves close proximity between the person providing the service and the client. The question now is, how do companies and facilities reassure their customers? As mentioned before, only 24% of employees feel comfortable enough going back to work, because they do not trust that their facilities will have the required hygiene levels to keep them safe. And so, hygiene has now become possibly the biggest issue facing all companies, especially in the service area.
According to Brian, who served in the army, the army has a term "safe", where it is used as a prefix, e.g. safedrill, safeguard, safehouse. This is a pleasant terminology that can be applied to marketing and public relations as well about facilities being open and safe, but how does one do that? One way is to start actively highlighting the programs in place in regards to hygiene. It is possible to use the fact that you are either partnering with or hiring professional janitors and cleaning services as part of your marketing proposition. A company, Nesbit, in Bristol provides a range of authorised and high-quality cleaning products. If you do not want to hire a janitorial service and prefer to do it yourself, could you be using established brands that other consumers are already familiar with? How can you create reassurance for those coming, or wanting to come, that you are investing in hygiene because ultimately, investing in safe hygiene practices transfers to investing in your customer’s well-being; it’s about reassurance.
The best hygiene practices
It’s important to demonstrate to the public that you care for their safety through your superior hygiene practices. One example could be posting images of the facility being cleaned. This provides one opportunity to show consumers, customers, or patients your hygiene regime. It could also be possible to install cameras in the reception area so people can see cleaning taking place. Streaming information from the office, the factory, or patient care area is another option. If you do choose to partner with a well-known brand, like a catering or cleaning company, then you must make sure they have the certification you are aspiring to have, which creates an alliance of cleanliness. While it is not your job to build trust in the cleaning products, you can show people that you are using these established brands and a regimented system.
Hubstaff has a time tracking app available called Geo-Fencing that creates metrics or data when cleaning staff enter a certain facility. That data can then be streamed in real time to the website or Facebook Live. It is not just about having a plan. It is about making sure that all of the staff have a plan as well, because you can only be as clean as your cleanest staff member. Everyone has to be educated about the cleaning regime being put into place. If choosing to film or take pictures, it is also wise to make sure that everybody signs a form to acknowledge that they know there is filming taking place in the facility, as no one wants to have a privacy issue, and with technology comes the responsibility to inform people.
Another idea is to install a visitor management system. If you reflect on your business, what do people do when they enter the facility? Do they have to sign a piece of paper? Do they need to stand next to somebody? A visitor management system can allow people to sign a QR (quick response) code, which many modern digital offices use in their reception area. With this available, it is not necessary to come into contact with people anymore. Instead, clients can come with prior bookings, such as through Eventbrite, and simply scan their code. This replaces the old-fashioned sheets and enhances security at the same time as improving hygiene. This regime for hygiene goes through a process with social mobile analytics and the cloud, and there is an opportunity for collecting and sharing information about what you are doing without the need to be physically present within the facility.
The good PR Trustpilot could bring your business
The next step may be to begin using a platform such as Trustpilot, which has over a trillion ratings on their website and Google and is . This means you can verify reviews from people that are coming to your facility and then contribute to your Google seller rating. Through an upgrade, you can have automated review invitation emails that encourage customers to leave feedback. There are the Google seller ratings, social sharing, and a widget test. An A/B test can be run on a website to see how people respond to having Trustpilot on your website – would they buy more, or less, or make more bookings? Trustpilot is available on any website for free with the basic package. This helps provide people with the reassurance they need, especially in times of COVID. It is not enough to read one’s own PR; people want to see what others say about them. If you are interested in a more superior package, Trustpilot is available for £165 a month, and a further upgrade is available for £449 per month which could benefit an especially large organisation. Reviews are available and can be showcased, managed, and analysed, and this is all geared towards demonstrating that your hygiene regime is in practice. As people begin to feel safe again, they will hopefully begin to engage with the business once more and leave positive reviews.
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An opportunity that may arise if going down the path of streaming is that a new version of The Office could be made. The Office was a show back in July of 2001 written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. While only having run for two seasons, and with a low rating, it likely could have done better if there was a Trustpilot for the show. The newer version in the United States became the internet’s favourite show, and amazing enough, the outpost of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company as an office show is worth $100 million a year. It appears that the business of watching other people doing their business has become a bigger business than business itself. Perhaps this could be seen as inspiration as it could be that taking an initiative on the health regime, making social sharing, and getting people back to work could be grown and monetised at a later stage. Any of the winners right now will be the companies that other people want to talk about, and that is great for PR.