Capitalising on trust: How news media has helped brands through COVID-19

Peter Miller
By Peter Miller | 6 May 2020
Peter Miller

Reaching 2.7 million Australians before lunchtime every day, during COVID-19, news brands have demonstrated their value as a trusted partner that drives business impacts for Australian brands, says Peter Miller, the CEO of NewsMediaWorks.

These are indeed curious times and I don’t know about you but in times of upheaval, I turn to the people I trust for support and guidance. When the information you require is a matter of life or death, there’s no question. And so it has been reassuring to see brands leverage the established trust of news media to communicate during this time.

I’m sure you’ve heard me wax lyrical about the importance of trust before so I won’t labour the point, but it pays to remember that advertising in news media is the most trusted form of advertising. That’s because the trust and reliance readers place on news brands have a halo effect on advertising found within the medium.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen this come to life as brands of all shapes and sizes look to reassure their customers. From full page print ads brought to you by major retailers such as Coles, Woolworth’s, IGA and Foodworks encouraging people to support the vulnerable members of our community, to Unions NSW and Origin Energy calling on news media to let people know they are there for them; the trust behind these channels has never been more important for brands.

News media has also provided a platform for brands to carry on doing business. A terrific example of this is The West Australian’s long-standing partnership with the WA Ballet. The ballet’s Genesis program was due to be performed this month but instead it is now streaming online for readers of The West Australian who can watch the 12-part program in its entirety. This is a first for The West Australian and there are several objectives behind it including appealing to existing supporters of the ballet and introducing the brand to new audiences.

Another example of how news brands are helping businesses continue speaking to audiences is the Deloitte AFR Banking & Wealth Summit. Scheduled for March, social distancing restrictions meant the event could not go ahead as planned giving Deloitte and the AFR team only two weeks to pivot. The end result was a Virtual Banking & Wealth Crisis Meeting, live streamed on AFR.com. More than 4,000 people watched the live stream throughout the course of the day.

That’s 4,000 business decision makers, the same decision makers who decide which brands they will partner with day in and day out.

As a result of this success, the AFR team is rolling out a calendar of events in partnership with other brands.

In addition to providing a platform for events and performances, news media also offers a canvas for lighter brand messages such as Australian brewer Lion leveraging its beer brands to reinforce the government’s advice to stay at home. Through a series of full-page ads, last month XXXX GOLD, Toohey's, Furphy, Emu Export, West End and James Boag urged beer drinkers nationwide to keep their distance. Lion Australia managing director James Brindley said: “We want to help reinforce this critical message via our iconic brands.”

Whether serious or light-hearted, these messages continue to reach 2.7 million Australians by lunchtime with Nielsen Digital Content Ratings reporting an average increase of 57% across the top 10 news site audiences during March 2020 compared to the month prior.

And this matters because, according to the Kantar COVID-19 Barometer, 82% of Australians think it’s important for brands to keep advertising. The Barometer also tells us that Aussies think brands should use their voice to guide the change that is occurring while offering reassurance and easing anxieties.

As we start to prepare for life post-COVID, Australians are still looking for information, guidance and reassurance which means their reliance on news media, and the benefit this engaged audience delivers to brands, will be here for many months to come.

Peter Miller is the CEO of NewsMediaWorks.

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