Airlines cut jobs and flights, Starbucks moves to takeout mode, and Facebook offers resources for small businesses

Also: Buffer shares insights on working remotely, communicators’ concerns regarding COVID-19, crisis communications best practices, and more.

Good morning, PR pros:

 As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, many organizations have closed their offices and have directed employees to work from home. Social media tool Buffer is offering to help answer questions about working remotely:

It’s also published a Q&A with its engineering manager, Marcus Wermuth. In the article, Wermuth communications challenges with working remotely and ways to overcome isolation:

Buffer also suggested an easy way to use its tool to pause social media posts (a best practice when a tragedy or another crisis strikes):

Here are today’s top stories:

Airlines cut jobs along with flights

Many airlines are reducing their national and international flights by as much as 85% as traveler numbers dramatically fall. (Delta reported roughly 1 million fewer passengers last week compared with the year prior.) Now, several are laying off employees as well.

Scandinavian Airlines and Finnair announced they will cut capacity by up to 90%, which for SAS equates to roughly 10,000 employees:

Some airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic, are urging employees to voluntarily step down. Virgin is offering a voluntary severance package along with a six- to 12-month sabbatical for those who do. Others, including Delta Airlines, have eliminated their chief executive salaries or have cut executive salaries. (United Airlines announced a 100% base salary cut for its chief and 50% salary cut to other executive officers.)

Though most airlines have published news releases along with blog posts and social media updates about their COVID-19 responses, a few airlines, including Alaska Airlines and Delta, have created hubs to consolidate all their information.

Why it matters: Layoffs are becoming an increasingly more common element of COVID-19 crisis responses, so it’s especially important to remain transparent with your employees. Regardless of whether your organization is planning job cuts or are asking employees to work remotely, overcommunication with your workforce is better than not giving employees valuable information ahead of journalists and customers.

Put your employees’ concerns and emotions first in your communications as well. Follow the playbook of United Airlines’ chief executive, Oscar Munoz, and its president, Scott Kirby. Here’s an excerpt from its letter to staff:

We took early, aggressive action because we have been determined to do everything possible to avoid painful steps that affect your paycheck.  But, based on the severity of the situation, that no longer appears realistic.

… We both hate to have to write a note like this, but we have made a commitment to be honest and transparent with you.  While it’s now clear that this is going to painful for our people, we promise that you are at the very top of our priority list.  We are working night and day on support and ideas to keep as much pay as we possibly can flowing to you — even if gets worse from here and demand temporarily plummets to zero.

This crisis is moving really quickly.  It’s having an impact on nearly every aspect of our lives, and it may feel to you like everything is changing.  But, the most important thing about our business hasn’t changed: you’ve shown us that even in these difficult times, we’re still United and focused on caring for our customers and each other together. That’s always been the essential ingredient to our success.  It’s what will get us through this crisis in the near term, and it’s also what will allow us to fulfill United’s incredible potential in the long-term.


 Small businesses are deeply concerned about the economic impact of COVID-19 or “novel coronavirus.” The health impact is frightening as well, but economic fears weigh much heavier.

This is what the National Small Business Association (NSBA) discovered in a poll:

Image courtesy of NSBA.

Most businesses are taking action, sharing health information and canceling events:

Image courtesy of NSBA.

Business owners also say they are much less confident about the future:

Image courtesy of NSBA.

To see more insights, read the full report.

Starbucks adopts a ‘to go’ model

The coffee chain announced a shift to a “to go” model in its company-owned stores in the United States and Canada for at least two weeks, which includes restricting seating at its locations, offering a smaller condiment bar and closing locations near COVID-19 clusters.

Customers can still order in person and by using Starbucks’ “order ahead” feature in its app, provided the location is open.

Why it’s important: The pandemic is affecting organizations across multiple industries, and it’s not just the travel, hospitality and events sectors that must pivot to survive. Brainstorm how you can offer your products and services in different ways to meet consumer concerns and the current condition. Remain flexible in your offerings, campaigns and messaging.


Communicators of all stripes are scrambling to address business continuity plans and reassure employees and consumers as COVID-19 panic rises. Rich French, chairman and chief executive of French/West/Vaughan, shares five steps for savvy crisis communications. See them here.

Facebook offers COVID-19 resources to small businesses

The social media platform offered smaller organizations a resource hub containing instructions for keeping “safe and informed,” ways to relay information to consumers, and tools for connecting better with their followers, such as a livestream.

Facebook wrote:

At Facebook, we’re working to keep people safe and informed about the recent outbreak of COVID-19. We know that as members of the communities you serve, businesses like yours may also be experiencing unexpected challenges, and we’re committed to providing as much support as possible.

Why you should care: Giving consumers valuable information is a best practice with social media and content strategies any time, but that becomes especially important when a major crisis happens. Position your brand as one to rely on (boosting reputation and loyalty) by sharing information and resources that can help your audience best handle the pandemic.


 As COVID-19 dominates headlines and media coverage, articles are piling up—but not all sources are trustworthy. Check out Edelman’s map of the disease’s spread (along with the affect of misinformation) in Singapore, in a recent overview by PR Daily’s Ted Kitterman.


We asked about the influencers you use in your social media marketing strategies. We wanted to know whether you were focusing on celebrities or on micro- and nano-influencers.

Most said they were looking for smaller followings with a targeted niche.

However, a lot of respondents said they don’t use influencers. There might be an opportunity to have a competitive advantage by using these online advocates for your company.


 What do you think of all the messages from business leaders and marketers about COVID-19? Do you want to hear from Walmart and your local yoga studio about their response? What about a restaurant you only ever visited once?

Share your thoughts about email and social media messaging from business leaders for our #MorningScoop.


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