These are certainly challenging and unprecedented times. The COVID-19 virus has spread around the world, and with it – uncertainty, as we all try to contain it and figure out how to continue to be of service to one another in light of it.
As a PR agency owner, I have been busy helping clients navigate through established marketing communications and PR plans, and revise them accordingly. And, we have been busier than ever, helping organizations define clear crisis communications plans and messaging.
There is a great deal of opportunity for marketers to communicate authentically and effectively during this time with customers and the general public. Staying silent and not doing so, could be detrimental to your brand, especially if people have a relationship with it on a daily basis.
Based on what we are experiencing right now, here are some tips for dealing with your PR and marketing communications effectively:
Over-Communication Can Be A Good Thing
1) Inform your customers about how your business has been impacted, and in turn, how that will affect the consumer. If you’re a retailer for example, advise of reduced business hours or a temporary closure. Keep communicating about government developments on containing the health and safety of the general public, and how your business is responding accordingly. Use email newsletters, your website, and social media to communicate all new developments, without creating fear. It’s important to remain calm and factual in times of crisis.
Cancel Events and Gatherings
2) Postpone experiential and PR events, and think of creative ways to continue to earn stories and coverage. In recent years, we have used PR events for unique and novel new product launches, and have been pragmatic about events in general. Events are costly, earning short-term and short-lived results. It’s been my experience that a strategic media relations plan can earn far more impressions over the course of the year, and this trying time is certainly highlighting the importance of keeping things simple.
Devise a Formal Crisis Communications Plan
3) Now is the time to develop a crisis communications plan if you have not already done so. I know it’s not a pleasant subject, nor a reality many of us want to entertain. This latest pandemic is exactly the situation none of us saw coming, and is forcing us to communicate and do business in new ways and in lightening speed. Moving forward, crisis planning will be more important than ever.
The PR Opportunity of a Pandemic
4) Many media outlets have been employing freelance writers for quite some time now, so telecommuting is nothing new to these folks. What is new, is the rate at which media is being consumed. With so many people practicing isolation and social distancing, working from home creates the need for more connection, and as a result telecommunication and media consumption will rise. This is an opportunity for PR, because more than ever, a good story is welcome. This does not mean capitalizing on a bad situation, and brands need to be weary of seeming opportunistic, if pitches are not rooted in truly helping the general public right now. Communicating real important stories that relate to the collective human experience are extremely relevant, and should be shared with integrity and compassion.
If you are wondering how to communicate effectively with customers, employees and stakeholders during this time, calling a PR professional will certainly help. A PR pro well-versed in crisis communications is the sounding board every business owner and executive needs right now.
If I can be of service, please do not hesitate to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.