Assessing Public Relations, Social Media and Marketing During a Pandemic
By Sarah Larson
One client was launching a new website. Another had made a major lateral hire that they were poised to announce. A third was about to print a publication in which they had invested months of effort. What were they supposed to do, they asked us, in the midst of the first global disease pandemic in our lifetimes?
Our counsel to each has been the same: It is time to hit the pause button on normal public relations, social media content, and marketing plans.
This is Not Business As Usual
With state governors nationwide ordering at first partial and then more comprehensive social distancing orders, professional service providers from accountants to attorneys to investment advisors are working from home. Others, including retail bankers, nursing home workers, and grocery store employees, continue working on the front lines, in far more challenging situations than they are used to.
While businesses scramble to continue operating, some are trying to reassure customers and clients that they are continuing business as usual. But that simply isn’t true. Nothing is the same today as it was even one week ago, and it undoubtedly will continue to change day by day.
“It is not ‘business as usual,’ no matter how you look at it,” Furia Rubel CEO Gina Rubel advised participants on a webinar earlier this week. “Just because your company is able to assist its clients as it always has while your team is working from home, there is nothing normal about living through a global pandemic. It’s okay to say that.”
During the ongoing pandemic, the team at Furia Rubel has urged clients to be true to the current situation. Be human. Acknowledge that everything has changed – for your business, your clients, and your customers. Tell them, “This is a challenging time, for all of us. We want to assure you that we are here for you when you need us. We are committed to continuing to offer the same level of exceptional service that you have come to expect from us.”
Pause Unrelated Content
During these unprecedented times, people are watching the way businesses conduct themselves. They will remember how you communicated with them during a time of crisis. Did you take the time to evaluate how your team members, customers, business partners, and community are being affected right now? Did you tailor the mood, tone and content of your communications to fit the atmosphere? Or did you continue on blithely promoting yourself and your company? The choices you make today about what to say and how to say it will impact how you are perceived in the marketplace and shape the long-term relationship with your employees, your customers, and your business partners for the foreseeable future.
This is a time for business leaders to demonstrate commitment to their communities, to offer empathy and understanding, and to serve as a resource for others. We are encouraging our clients to check for and then disable any social media content, email marketing or ad campaigns that are pre-scheduled that may not add value to their audiences at this time. Instead, draft communications that offer resources, help and hope during this difficult time.
At some point, we all will get back to business, but even then, it is unlikely to be business the way it was before. We will learn from this experience and change the way we work and the way our businesses offer their services. We may even treat each other a little more kindly and value our relationships and connections even more. Then, your company can resume “regular” marketing and PR activity. For now, though, every communication should be carefully reviewed and evaluated for its ethics, its impact on your audience, and its appropriateness during this historic period.
For more coronavirus resources, please visit our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis & PR Resource Center.