By Chantal Cooke, Panpathic Communications
Remember a few months ago when the biggest worry for many businesses was the B word?
And then suddenly we were extras in a Steven Soderbergh movie, and Covid-19 challenged everything we thought we knew about running a business. Since then many businesses have simply been fire-fighting.
Now the world is different. But not unrecognisably so. The future we thought we were heading for is different too. But rather than the Hunger Games, it it is more likely to be one with fully stocked pasta and flour shelves. So, when we get back to normal, or a close-as-we-can-get-to-normal interim period, your business need to be fit-for-purpose. And you will need to make sure your customers know it.
Here’s why you need to think about your PR and start planning now:
Audiences are listening
Inevitably, sales of newspapers and magazines are down. However, radio audiences have gone up considerably. And online publications have also seen their readership increase dramatically.
Journalists are listening
Journalists are well set up for working from home so they are looking for relevant content ideas going forward. With fewer press releases coming in, they are more receptive than usual to those they do receive. Provided those releases are right for them.
If, a few months ago, you felt that you were a small fish in a big pond at the moment your pond is far emptier. You are more of a catch.
We’ve seen nothing like this before
We have been through economic uncertainty before (for example, the 2008 financial crisis) and in these circumstances, similar patterns are found. Amongst the most notable is that businesses that can and do invest in PR at the time of a crisis almost always fare better in the longer term.
Analysis of crisis also reveals the same three phases.
The three crisis phases
Here is what you should be doing at each point of the current crisis and why.
Phase 1: crisis is happening
Unless you are at the frontline of the news, there is not a vast amount you can do here, other than offering advice and consolation. Make your contribution relevant and sensitive.
For example, ff you are an accountant, offer practical advice on how people should protect their finances. If you have a product that is particularly relevant do make sure people know about it. If you can offer an effective delivery method that others can’t, make sure the people that can benefit from it are aware of it.
To be clear, this is not about profiteering. The majority of people are stuck at home and, if your product or service can benefit them, let them know it is there. If you can afford it, help them out by offering as much of a discount as you can. This is the right time to be helping others as much as possible. Your efforts will be remembered. Make sure your efforts are the type you can be proud of.
Phase 2: the end is in sight
At this stage, the end of lockdown and the crisis is close. From a PR perspective this time is critical.
Businesses are starting to re-open, and those that remain closed are about to put their recovery strategies into action. People are thinking about the next few months and what they will be doing. In other words, the pond is getting busier.
If you have been visible (for the right reasons) during phase 1, then you will be in a much stronger position; you will have the profile of a bigger fish. You need to maintain and grow your position, which means keeping up your PR efforts with as much helpful advice-based content as possible.
If you have been quiet during phase 1, then it is important to start making yourself visible again. Useful, relevant advice is the best way forward, so you will have been wise to have spent some time during phase 1 thinking about what people will want and need during phase 2 and working out how best you can provide that. Also focus on positive stories about your business. There will be an appetite for good news.
Phase 3: the recovery phase
People are going back to work and kids are back at school. While things are not quite how they used to be people can live lives that feel familiar and normal: eating out; visiting places as a family; getting a haircut. People are customers again.
Businesses will resume spending their marketing budgets. For those business profiles that disappeared, budgets will have to work far harder to gain traction. But for those that managed to be present throughout the previous stages, they will have acquired big fish status.
It’s about time
Time is one resource that is likely to have increased. If you have more of it on your hands, invest some of it working on PR ideas: get some practical advice on the PR process and how to implement it. If you have the budget, appoint a good, reliable agency, and if you don’t have money right now, look to do what you can yourself. Something is almost always better than nothing.
Right now is the time to be working on your PR and looking to the future.
About the author
Chantal Cooke is an award-winning journalist, founder of Panpathic Communications and co-founder of PASSION for the PLANET, the UK’s first ethically focused radio station.
For more information see: www.panpathic.com
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