Ho Chi Minh, VIETNAM – On June 4, 2020, Dr. Clāra Ly-Le, Managing Director of the marketing communications agency EloQ Communications, took part in a webinar held by the Vietnam Public Relations Network (VNPR). With the participation of guest speakers who are top experts in the field, the communications forum has captured the attention of many interested viewers.

As the effects of the Covid-19 wanes and the time of social distancing comes to a halt, the society moves forward to a “new normal. To PR practitioners, the definition of “the new public” is brought forward as a point of discussion for experts both in and outside the field, with an aim to determine their target audience more accurately.

The webinar enticed a gathering of experts in the field. Alongside with Dr. Clāra Ly-Le, there were Mr. Nguyen Khoa My, Co-Chair of VNPR as the forum’s Moderator, Mr Ma Thanh Danh, Vice-President of KIDO Group and CEO-Founder of International Consultancy Firm CIB, and Mr. Nguyen Trong Phuoc, Managing Editor of Thanh Nien Newspaper, as the commentators.

Awareness of the “new public” differs among commentators
In the first survey question “Is there really a ‘new public’ group after the Covid-19 pandemic?”, Mr. Nguyen Khoa My announced that 60% of participating viewers voted ‘Yes’, 20% voted ‘No’ and 20% was ‘Not sure’.

Mr. Ma Thanh Danh commented that after social distancing, the biggest change in consumer behavior was a reduction in dining-out frequency. They now cook at home and utilize online channels for grocery shopping or buying take-away food. Besides, the number of people working from home has skyrocketed during the pandemic, with 50% workers registering for this work mode for a week. This helped save the workers’ commute costs, and as for business owners, they also saved some money on office space and redirect those expenses into personnel training and development.

This has proved that consumers have developed a change in perception that leads to change in habits and behaviors as they become more economical in spending and pay more attention to protect their families and their own health by utilizing Industry 4.0 conveniences for all shopping activities to avoid crowded space. Business owners and marketing/PR firms need to keep pace with such change in trends and look out for new opportunities.

However, Mr. Nguyen Trong Phuoc offered a counter perspective. He thought that there is no “new public” group because Vietnamese people are “quick to forget”. As long as a brand offers certain benefits to consumers in the form of good quality, low pricing or promotion, then they will be captivated and thus easily slip back to the “old normal”.

Dr. Clāra Ly-Le shared: “It’s still too soon to identify the existence of a ‘new public’ group, everything is temporary. Each public group has different concerns.” As with herself, her decision in choosing certain brands now is not only influenced by their products’ quality, but also the brand’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) presence during the pandemic. Her answer belonged to the 20% ‘Not sure’ group.

Awareness – The public’s most substantial change after the pandemic
The government’s requirement for citizens to wear face masks in public, sanitize their hands frequently and limit crowd-gathering to protect the public’s health has had certain influences on how people think. Even after social distancing, we could see most people still adhering to the disease prevention rules from prior. Perhaps, the shopping and eatery markets still have a long way to go before they reach the hustle-and-bustle status like before.

After the pandemic, consumers’ awareness remains. Digitalization and traditional journalism have proven their strengths, become the main concerns and received a huge volume of interactions from users,” Dr. Ly-Le assessed.

According to Dr. Ly-Le, as soon as the public recognizes the convenience of using technology, which has both avoided them of spreading infections and made life easier, it’s possible that they will maintain this practice rather than revert to the old ones. In addition, according to data from Similar Web, the number of views on traditional media platforms escalated since readers sought to filter out the fake news that ran rampant on social media. This strong comeback of traditional media has showed that people are placing more trust on professional newsrooms. PR practitioners need to take this fact into consideration for their future PR activities, since there was a priority on social media before the pandemic broke out.

The “new public” has always existed, PR practitioners must keep their eyes peeled
Looking back at the forum’s initial survey result, Mr. Khoa My said: “60% of participants voted ‘yes’ for the existence of the ‘new public’. This is not a small number, but the remain 20% of the two segments opted for ‘unsure’ or ‘no’. Each answer has its own rationale, and regardless of the existence of the ‘new public’ group, PR practitioners always need to move along with the target audience by studying their behaviors, habits, and awareness.”

PR practitioners are always sensitive to the current events. Every incident prompts PR professionals to try to understand the target audience’s emotions, thinking, and behaviors in order to keep up with the latest trends. Therefore, “as soon as we’re aware of the changes, then the first thing we do is to change our own mindsets and execution strategies to understand the consumers’ insights,” Mr. Trong Phuoc said.

Likewise, Dr. Clāra Ly-Le said that there is no ‘new public group’, but rather, the emergence of the public’s new awareness after the pandemic. Depending on the different target audience, we must lay out different foundations when rolling out a new communications/advertising campaign. Moreover, PR budget planning has to be mindful of in any strategies. Instead of targeting broadly to a ‘general public’, companies should try to “narrow down, concentrate on” as we determine our core audience segment. This would save a lot of financial resources amidst this time of economic hardship. Therefore, the industry requires us to be adaptive to the changes in the market and keep a sharp eye on the public even in the ‘normal’ times – only then can we achieve work efficiency.

Finally, the forum wrapped up with the farewell and an insightful quote from Mr. Thanh Danh, “Change is not important, the important thing is our attitude toward the change. If we see it as a challenge, then it will be a challenge. If we see opportunity in it, then it will be an opportunity. Turn the challenge into opportunity, and regardless of our occupations or fields, as long as our hearts are in it, we will reap the well-deserved fruits of our labor.”

About EloQ Communications
EloQ Communications is an independent communications agency which acts as the eyes, ears, and voice of its clients in the Vietnamese market. Combining local expertise with a global perspective, EloQ works with foreign and Vietnamese companies of all sizes and industries to enhance their images and extend their reach in the Vietnamese market.
EloQ offers a range of marketing services, including PR, social marketing, digital marketing, influencer marketing, business and product branding, crisis communication, integrated strategic planning, and event planning. The agency values modernity, transparency, and flexibility above all.
For more information about EloQ and its services, please visit www.eloqasia.com