This letter went out to Your People clients on Friday, March 20, 2020, in light of the increasing degree of shutdowns and shelter-in-place directives from local and federal governments. It presents our perspective on crisis communications and best practices for marketing and public relations at a time like the one we are facing with the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope it will offer some insights for you as we weather this crisis together.
Dear Your People Clients,
These are unprecedented times! I’ve spoken with many of you over the past two weeks and worked with some of you on crisis messaging, and I’d just like to share some thoughts and perspectives on communications and marketing during this time.
While we may have addressed the initial need to communicate, I want to share some insights regarding ongoing crisis communications and the wisdom of planning for what-ifs, despite the fact that none of us knows how this will coronavirus crisis unfold.
Media Still Hungry for Pitches
First, the good news: Media still need stories, and reporters and producers want our pitches on your behalf.
That said, we must not be tone-deaf or opportunistic. Any ideas that we can offer to reassure, support, or provide upbeat stories will go over well. We just have to be flexible and understanding as this situation is ever-changing. (And, if you want to do media, be prepared to do so over Skype!)
Nurture Relationships, Virtually!
Now is a great time to shore up our media relationships. I am personally reaching out to media pros that I know, asking how they’re doing and how I can help or support. We can continue to pitch media for all of you; we just need to be sensitive to the situation, not solely focus on coronavirus but not ignore it completely.
Now is the time to push our creativity and innovation to think about how we can take a new angle to a product or service. Since not everyone can make that jump, the next step is to look at owned media opportunities and brand channels to determine what stories we can talk about on your own platforms – blog, website, social media, email newsletters.
Use This Time to Plan Ahead
As far as planning, we must prepare for eventual outcomes. A key to crisis communications is planning for the unforeseeable future, so we should have plans mapped out in the event that a leader or team member in your organizations gets COVID19, in the event that the global situation worsens, and in the event that the global situation improves.
What do we want to communicate when this gets better? What do we want to communicate if this gets worse?
Don’t Forget Your People
Lastly, internal communications is crucial at a time like this. Now is the time to overcommunicate with your teams – offering concrete plans, reassurance, and decisive leadership that can help everyone weather the course.
If you haven’t thought about long-term plans in a variety of scenarios, now is the time to do so. We all have very real needs for business to keep functioning and eventually grow, as we will get through this, and we will return to business as usual.
If we haven’t connected yet, we’d love to check in to see how we can help make this process smoother for you. Please make sure that if we aren’t involved in reviewing content before it’s pushed out, you have someone to review every word and image before you publish it, just in case there is some unexpected negative effect.
Here are some helpful tips for content planning:
· Nothing should be scheduled right now. The situation is changing hour by hour and day by day, and content must respond to that.
· Re-evaluate previously planned content with a laser-sharp focus to determine if it’s still relevant and appropriate.
· Provide content that is valuable for your customers right now, with what they are feeling and experiencing, and they will come back to you when this subsides.
· It’s important to continue to communicate with customers and potential customers, but perhaps not as overtly or directly you’re used to.
· People remember who handles these situations well, and who doesn’t. Some organizations say too much, which hurts your brand more than saying too little. It’s better to be silent and thoughtful than to harm your brand by putting your foot in your mouth.
Regardless of what comes next, we are in this together. We are here for and with you.