Responsible Communication in Quebec During the COVID-19 Era

For over a year, communication has been defined by the pandemic. COVID-19 news and stories have driven out many other topics and it remains difficult to find space in the media or in communication with the general public. In this context, how can we  maintain responsible communication? Should communications related to sustainable development be put on hold?

One of the major pillars of sustainable development is humankind. Responsible communication values the environment, but also takes  social and societal commitments of an organization into consideration. Over  this past year, the need for sincere, positive, and transparent messaging has increased significantly. Organizations’ community contributions and core values are more expected today, and in turn, more scrutinized.

Sustainable development is as important as ever

At this moment in time, it would be unwise to set aside your sustainable development communications. Studies show that consumers are still sensitive to environmental and social issues, despite the pandemic.

The majority of Quebecers believe the COVID-19 recovery must prioritize the economy and environment equally. In June 2020, Leger conducted a survey, finding that health, quality of life, and the environment were a priority in Quebec, ahead of economic growth.

Emerging trends

New “sustainable trends” have emerged since the start of the pandemic, such as second-hand and local buying, accelerating the transition of consumption patterns. The Observatoire de la consommation responsable (OCR) notes that Quebecers are spending more time on “homemade” products, doing more to reduce food waste, and promoting local buying.

In a report published in late 2020, the OCR found that this trend is continuing into 2021. More than 86% of respondents said that it is important to buy products made in Quebec in order to support local businesses, and 1 in 5 consumers use the Panier Bleu (Blue Basket) to make their purchases.

Social influence

The “social” aspect of sustainable development has seen growth due to the pandemic. Over-consumption does not go hand-in-hand with our current living situation. In contrast to an event like Black Friday, the Green Friday Movement, which gained momentum in 2020, consists of donating a portion of its proceeds to charity.

Starting at home 

At a time when employee mental health is often being ignored, companies are expected to take action in-house. HR communication has become a responsible external communication tool. We can even call it “new space” in the media.

Starbucks is a regular example in the press and has decided to offer access to the Headspace meditation app and coaching sessions to its employees in the United States and Canada. L’Oréal Canada, which has launched wellness sessions at home for its employees, including online yoga classes, was recently named one of Montreal’s Top 2021 Employers, specifically for this initiative.

Choosing and adapting causes

We all saw the acts of solidarity demonstrated by brands at the beginning of the pandemic, such as Tim Hortons supporting essential workers. While these good deeds are certainly commendable, what about the long-term? 

To communicate effectively, it is necessary to be selective in the choice of actions put forward, to adapt communications to the context of the pandemic, while also maintaining consistency with your values and your identity.

Bell’s “Let’s Talk” commitment, a conversation engine for mental health initiated in 2010, has taken on a new meaning with the pandemic. At the end of January, the company managed to create a great movement, fitting in well with the current context, highlighting a commitment that counts “more than ever” and relying on its specialty – telecommunications.

Staying close to the core of your business

When possible, highlight your commitments that support a sector relevant to your business. Canadian Tire made major donations to restore the sports industry, which was severely affected by the pandemic, the Montréal en Lumière festival partnered with the SAQ to launch a solidarity campaign for restaurateurs, and a packaging specialist has launched a video campaign to promote home delivery, in support of a struggling sector.

Make wise choices to highlight your commitments. Key themes to remember: selection, sensitivity, adaptation, and consistency!

In conclusion…

  • Do not hesitate to communicate about your responsible commitments
  • Adapt communications about your philanthropic causes to the context of the pandemic
  • Focus on your employees
  • Stay consistent with your values and plan for the long-term
Rebecca Hébert About the author
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