With the ongoing global effects of COVID-19 shifting the media landscape and changing businesses, it’s no surprise that PR and comms have suffered. This week we hosted a webinar to address the growing concerns around the pandemic and provide tips on how brands can navigate the crisis.
We were joined by Phil Hall, Founder & Chairman at The PHA Group and Angelica Malin, Editor-in-Chief at About Time Magazine to give us their crisis comms best practices. Here are our key takeaways:
#1. Don't try and shoehorn your brand into the narrative if it doesn't fit.
Brands are having to shapeshift around what’s happening in the media currently. If you have a natural and unrivalled way to get involved in the coronavirus conversation then use it as an opportunity for coverage, but don’t try and force your brand into it.
#2. Show that you're still open for business. Be positive and show leadership.
Clients and businesses are struggling, but people don’t want to work with brands that announce they are fighting for survival. Make sure you're adapting to different agendas and don't portray your company as being knee deep in misery (even if you are!).
#3. Being transparent and human with your audience is important to create a community spirit.
Increased visibility and transparency are good in times of uncertainty. Be honest with your audience if you’re making a brand shift as this shows humanity and a softer side. Why not use social media tools such as Instagram stories and Facebook live to achieve this if you can.
#4. Journalists are looking for stories that feel backed up with authenticity.
At a time where fake news is widespread, journalists are looking for stories that are backed up with some level of expertise – whether it’s interesting statistics and research, or an expert voice as an ambassador for your brand.
#5. Strike a balance in tone of voice.
There’s no one tone of voice fits all, and it’s important to keep your brand’s unique voice. That being said, anything that is too light in tone won’t sit well with journalist’s right now so be sure to strike a balance between being light-hearted and paying respect to the current circumstances.
#6. Crisis messaging isn’t always received best from the CEO.
The CEO or senior member may not be the right person to strike the right tone in a tricky situation. Sometimes it’s someone on the ground, a long-standing employee, or the ‘heartbeat’ of the business that can make an empathetic and meaningful announcement that resonates well with your audience.
#7. Be empathetic, open and take everyone on the journey with you.
Many employees are taking pay cuts and unpaid holidays which is worrying for many. However, people are realistic and understanding in a crisis if you’re open with everyone involved. Consider sharing minute details of your business so that people can understand the whole picture.
#8. Not everyone needs to have a voice right now and you shouldn’t use the pandemic as a hook to get coverage.
It’s okay to take a step back from the press and be more proactive with your clients and staff during a crisis. Some brands are being more reserved and quieter which can be a good thing when there is so much noise.
#9. Prepare for the comeback.
During this time, it’s best to keep your brand profile up and work on human interest content. But be ready for the comeback and plan your strategy for when things go back to normal.
#10. The more personalised the campaign, the better.
It’s not the time to be sending out press releases on general topics in this current climate. Pitches need to be of high quality and personalised to the publication where possible unless they are concerned around your business doing something for the social good.