A test of all our brand’s values

A test of all our brand's values

During this once in a generation opportunity, institutions that clearly define what they mean now to stakeholders will be best positioned to benefit from a recovery.

Hugh Marks, Chief Executive Officer of Nine

These are indeed testing times. Testing times for our families. For our staff and colleagues. And for our businesses. For Nine, it’s caused us to reflect not just on how we position the business to trade through the economic implications of COVID-19, but what it means for us as a business and our role in the community, particularly our news and current affairs services across television, radio, print and digital.

Australians are consuming news and current affairs like I haven’t seen for many years. And they are not just watching, reading or listening. We can see from the metrics that they are deeply engaged with a 20 per cent increase in news consumption across the board year on year.

Of course, this is hardly surprising in the current circumstances but we can also see a much broader shift in the public mood that all institutions, government and private, should really consider how they respond to in the current environment.

If we as an organisation are to be good at anything, it is understanding Australians. If we don’t, our business suffers. And we get measured every day on this metric. And what’s happening now is fascinating.

The public mood is open. They want guidance. Real leadership. They want transparency. They have never liked bullshit but they are now much less cynical. It’s a big shift, and maybe a permanent one. They have a thirst for things that make them feel better about life. More reassured.

As a result, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Not just for us as a business but for all institutions. Because as we move through this crisis and out the other side, which we will, it will be those institutions that are able to truly and clearly define what they mean now to stakeholders that will be best positioned to benefit from a recovery – whether those stakeholders are customers, businesses, the government or indeed the general public.

What is your brand – whether that be a company or a product or a service? What do you want it to stand for? Now – in this world of ours, a world that will be different as we evolve from a succession of crises? And are you telling that story in the right way?

Important questions

Most importantly, is it clear and simple and actionable? Is it something that you’ve taken for granted as not needing to be changed. Have you questioned what this crisis means for your brand – in the long term? It will be well worth the effort and as important as anything else you do as an institution through current events.

Because now is definitely the time of the brand and not the latest thing or deal. Yes, price will always remain very important in the context of constrained budgets but take time to define your brand as something of value, beyond just price or ubiquitous service. These are the businesses that will thrive.

You can see many brands already picking up on this and responding. It’s been great to see. Certainly we’ve had to do a lot of this thinking ourselves. And we continue to do this work. Do we have the tone of our content right – across all of our platforms? What have we been saying to the public about Nine News as a brand, The Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age or 3AW.

And Pedestrian.TV? How has it been tackling this when it, as a brand, speaks to young people who have never experienced an economic shock like the one we are now living through. How did that flow down to our people – including our presenters and journalists? Did we stand for the things that the public rightly demands?

These are the questions we ask of our business and how we communicate to the public. These are the questions our reporters, editors and producers are asking themselves with every story they prepare.

In response, we’ve made several changes. And we will continue to refine the things we do and say. We will need to tell our audiences that and live that as the media brands that are within Nine.

It’s a great challenge – one we talk about all the time, and one we will invest in as we move through current events to beyond.

First appeared in The Australian Financial Review, 23 March 2020.