Katch‘s Founder and Managing Director, Georgie Woollams, joined a special-guest panel to offer her expertise on the use of effective crisis communications during the pandemic, as part of the latest ‘MERA powered by GRIF‘ webinar.

A Collective Effort

Different forms of communication (Crisis Communications)

In its continued, collective efforts to provide an inclusive support system for both the restaurant industry and wider F&B community, the recently launched Middle East Restaurant Association (MERA) teamed up with the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF) for another successful ‘MERA powered by GRIF’ webinar. Renowned Publisher, Writer and F&B/PR Consultant Samantha Wood (FooDiva) hosted the third instalment of the weekly webinar series.

The enlightening hour-long Zoom session provided intriguing insights, practical advice and expert opinions. Leaders in the fields of marketing, PR, communications, and hospitality were on hand to discuss the importance of effective creative and crisis communications during the current pandemic, and the strategies that can make or break a restaurant. The all-female panel of special guests included:

  • Samantha Wood, Founder, FooDiva (*Host)
  • Claudia De Brito, Editor, Hotelier Middle East
  • Stasha Toncev, Chief Soulkitchen Officer, 21Grams & Urban Balkan Bistro
  • Nicola Walsh, Director of Marketing & Communications, Sarood Hospitality & Dubai Retail
  • Georgie Woollams, Founder & Managing Director, Katch International

Keep Talking

Man with 'Make Some Noise' sign (Crisis Communications)

A common thread that emerged throughout the discussion was how hugely important it is to keep communicating with customers, instead of going dark, during the lockdown, regardless of whether a business is open or closed. The panel all agreed with Samantha Wood’s initial opening that by injecting creativity, transparency, compassion and honesty into their messaging and marketing content, businesses will engage more effectively with their audiences. This will lead to increased brand loyalty and, consequently, strengthen their chances of getting though this crisis.

The value of CSR and building community spirit among all stakeholders was highlighted too. Nicola Walsh pointed to the need for an industry-wide shift towards a ‘Buy-One-GIVE-One-Free’ mentality, instead of a ‘Buy-One-Get-One-Free’ approach. Claudia De Brito echoed those sentiments and encouraged businesses to reach out to the community. In doing so, she stressed the importance of giving the media, both traditional and online, positive and uplifting stories to tell.

Step Up Your Social Output

Social Media Like Icons (Crisis Communications)

Stasha Toncev was keen to underline the value of transparency and reaching out to customers for support and feedback. She urged businesses to ask their customers what opening hours and dishes suit their needs best. Additionally, the power of social media as a marketing tool at a time like this was a big talking point. Aside from big players such as Facebook and Instagram, the surge in popularity of Tik Tok was of particular interest. Georgie Woollams pointed out its surprisingly untapped potential as a communications tool for restaurants and F&B businesses.  

She also emphasised the significance of recent statistics, showing a 27% increase in downloads of the video-sharing app in March. This was coupled with the fact that 80% of Tik Tok’s 3.7 million monthly active users in the UAE are aged between 18 and 34 – key target demographics for many local restaurants and F&B businesses.

A platform for collaboration, innovation and education – MERA advocates for sustainability, responsibility and food safety, securing longevity and, moreover, a better future for the industry. For more information about MERA, email jennifer@themera.org.

Looking to upgrade your crisis communications strategy to deal with the COVID-19, but don’t know how to go about it? Katch has you covered, so get in touch with our teams in Dubai and London!