In the coming days, weeks and months there will be many challenges that business and organisations will face and need to manage in the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.
As a PR agency we’ve been helping our clients deal with immediate crisis and issues matters that are effecting their businesses right now. This has included communicating changes to company and employee policies, showcasing company culture and leadership and communicating to customers around trading and services.
Our team has been covering such a wide range of communications activity – from strategy and client counsel, to content production and social media management, to running an outsourced press office function. So, we’ve asked some of Team AMBITIOUS to share their advice for businesses dealing with crisis and issues management in response to COVID-19.
Sarah – Plan for change, pick up the pace and prepare to pivot. As sentiment and government advice is changing quickly it’s important to have a daily catch up with key stakeholders who look after HR, communications, health and safety and operations in the business to assess what the advice means and any changes that need to be made to your business plan.
Think about the questions your staff and customers will ask and write templated answers so everyone in management is providing the same counsel.
Helen – Know your audience. Think about the who, the what and the where.
Who – do you need to inform? How many groups are there and what is each group’s role? Who will tell them?
What – what do they need to know and what is important to them?
Where – where are they and how best can you get the message out? Email/f2f/text/ cascade etc. What channels will you use? Do you have a remote or disparate workforce.
How – will it look – are visuals best? Is this best delivered as words or audio or a graphic or a video? What best serves your workforce, customers or stakeholders
Why – are you telling them – what purpose will it serve?
When – time is of the essence
Right to reply – what if they have questions? What mechanisms are in place for queries, concerns, support and who will manage this process?
Evie – Recognise and respond to the potential power of social. Some of the key areas that I’ll be reviewing for clients when planning social media content for your business over the next few months:
Content adaptability – if you’re having change the way your business operates, then chances are you will be left with a content gap in your social schedule. To keep your online presence going through this uncertain period, think about the mindsets of your key personas on social media, and ways your content can respond to what’s going on in the market. This could be anything from offering advise on how to stay productive when working remotely, to offering up software solutions that enable communities to stay connected.
Empathy and confidence in your tone – It’s difficult not to sound like you have a spring in your step when it’s getting lighter and warmer outside, but does this reflect what’s going on in your industry right now? It doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom but consider changing the tone from present to future thinking (where do you expect your industry to be in 5 years, how is your company using this time to future plan?). Staying optimistic while acknowledging changes in the market will be key to ensuring social content resonates with your audiences.
Virtual. It’s a reality – As working and living environments are changing daily around us, think about how your business can support its customers virtually. This is the time where it’s critical to stay connected. Make sure your social media channels have all your latest contact information, operating policies and FAQ’s readily available to help customers find what they need.
Holly – Think carefully about your message. When drafting press release or pitching in a story – always consider the purpose first of all. Is it news, and is it necessary given the circumstances?
When it comes to commenting on any trending topic, consider the potential backlash that could result from appearing to use communications for personal gain. Developing a position that’s grounded in well-sourced information, from professional sources. Many brands make the wrong call. The current climate is one of anxiety and confusion. If you have a genuine contribution to make, whether it’s expert advice you’re qualified to give, or perhaps reassurance to your customer base, then external comms can be a good and worthwhile thing, but they should refrain at all times from appearing self-serving.
Lis – PR has many tools in the box. Use them. Public relations is everything to do with the way businesses communicate with their audiences – customers, employees suppliers and other stakeholders. PR is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. And, you don’t get to choose if you want to engage in PR or not. It happens from the moment you communicate with others.
But you can take control over what you do, what you say and the way you say it. Having a PR strategy is deliberate and planned and can be highly effective when put to task. Done well it can help businesses to manage their reputations in troubled times. We’ve been working with clients using many communications tools in the past two weeks. From preparing PR strategy around company news, drafting statements for stakeholders, creating content for social channels so clients can reach new audiences and identifying collaborative partners for new ventures.
If you need support in the short term – from advice on the phone or outsourcing extra skills, get in touch with our team today.