Have news to share that isn’t related to the novel coronavirus? It’s hard to get anyone to listen, regardless of the industry, news medium or personality.
The virus has created a deep and lasting impact on our society. However, as many cities begin to reopen and attempt to reintroduce standard work/life routines, the question is—how do we move on?
When COVID-19 unexpectedly stole the show, companies and organizations were forced to throw their carefully coordinated marketing strategies, ad campaigns and PR plans out the window. Promotions tied up in closed restaurants, cancelled sporting events and postponed trade conventions simply were no longer relevant in light of the global pandemic.
Not only were plans changed due to cancellations, they were altered as a result of the obvious sensitivity that the situation required. Overnight, commercials and social media ads shifted from routine content to COVID-19 health tips and messages of gratitude to essential workers.
Now as we begin our “new now,” PR pros are charged with the challenge of advising clients on what their forward-focused communications should look like.
1. Don’t be afraid to move forward.
Communications pros must be sensitive to all stakeholders, but even that can get people into trouble at times.
Don’t be afraid of pushing your clients to move beyond coronavirus-centric content. While no one wants to be tone-deaf or insensitive in the eyes of their stakeholders, it is equally dangerous to stay in your comfort zone as your content quickly becomes irrelevant while the rest of the world moves on.
Ask yourself, in what way could my client be a thought leader in this situation moving forward? What new ideas could they share first? What actions could they be the first to take? How can their thought leadership translate to media outreach, blogs, social content and external email communications?
2. Acknowledge that hardships won’t be going away overnight.
The impact of COVID-19 will be around for years to come. Pay close attention to the stakeholders that your client serves and think through the ways that COVID-19 has likely affected them directly. Have they been impacted financially? Have they been at high risk for health complications? Are they concerned for the safety of their loved ones? Have they lost jobs because of the virus?
Consider these long-term impacts and make sure that while the content you create is positioned with the goal of moving beyond COVID-19, it is still clear that the company or organization is taking into consideration the challenges that are most relevant to the people it serves.
3. Don’t jump back to your old content as if nothing happened.
Whipping out your old pre-planned content calendars and marketing strategies from several months ago simply won’t work. Not only has the outside world changed drastically, the way people are thinking has also shifted. The things people value aren’t necessarily the same as what they valued six months ago. Reflect on how your client’s target audience may have experienced a shift in values or purchasing behavior during recent months.
4. Remember that humanity always comes first.
Don’t be so focused on strategy that you forget what your key publics really need: humanity. It’s easy to spot a company or organization that’s seeking insensitive personal gain and using COVID-19 as bait.
Treat stakeholders with respect and communicate with them in a human way. Consider the brands that have communicated successfully throughout the pandemic and make note of those who have exploited misfortune with a distasteful PR campaign. Strip the strategy away for long enough to consider how you would prefer to be communicated to as a consumer versus a strategist.
Now is the time for your clients to be thought leaders. Don’t allow the fear of stepping out and being first prevent your clients from leading the way in their respective industries.
It’s now or never. Our new now is here; will your clients be part of shaping it?
Ann Keeling is President of Cristofoli-Keeling, Inc., a marketing communications firm and ThreeTwelvePR, a public relations consultancy targeted to start-ups and small businesses.