What would Dear Abby say? Advising clients during COVID-19

Being a shoulder to lean on requires important soft skills from PR pros working with clients during this crisis. Here are some tips for being a calm and collected resource.

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When I was in middle and high school (long before social media), I looked forward to reading the Dear Abby and Ann Landers advice columns in the local newspaper. It was fascinating to read the pearls of wisdom that Abby and Ann offered their troubled readers to make things all better.

In recent weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed PR professionals into advice experts for our clients who want to know how to protect their brands and emerge with their companies intact. It can be tricky business to counsel a client facing extraordinary circumstances.

Here are five tips to consider when offering a client your two cents during a global pandemic or other high-stakes crisis:

Sometimes clients need to vent. Be empathetic.

Say: “I’m so sorry you are going through this. I know it’s hard for you and your employees.” It’s tempting, but don’t provide false hope or promise that you can make their problem “go away.”

As the saying goes, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Engage in active listening—give the client your undivided attention, ask questions, and re-state what they’ve shared to make sure you understand their perspective and what they’ve done to address it before you jump in. Use what you’ve learned to develop a communications plan and then help put it into action.

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