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Proceed with caution: PR during a pandemic

Melissa Mariani

Proceed with caution: PR during a pandemic by Melissa Mariani on May 5th, 2020

“You need to pause and strategize — how can we help clients be relevant, genuinely relevant, at a time when everyone is absolutely terrified.”

Sara Fitzmaurice, Founder and Chief Executive of Fitz & Co. PR Firm

The outbreak of COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the way we work, live and do business. The way that PR activities are conducted during these unprecedented times is crucial. It’s important that companies shift their communication strategies to be more empathetic and understand that things aren’t “business as usual.” Here are some handy tips to think about when planning PR initiatives during a pandemic.

 

Be Mindful of Your Words

Whenever communicating externally, think carefully about the words and language you’re using, regardless of whether you’re writing a pitch, press release, newsletter, social media copy, or a blog. The key is to draft copy that is positive and supportive to your audience during this time. It’s important for PR professionals to look for additional ways to put their audience first and address their needs and concerns. For example, as a PR professional working in the toy industry, you might want to produce content that addresses ways for kids and families to keep busy and entertained while stuck at home.

 

Tell the Story for the Media

While we face this global crisis, it is important to find stories that the media is working on and include yourself in the conversation. Rather than pitching to anyone and everyone, dig a little bit deeper and get to know what your journalist is likely to cover. Personalize each pitch, so the journalist knows that you’ve done your research. Additionally, why not create a story for the journalist and pitch them not only products, but an idea that they can build off of. For example, consider pitching the media the Top 10 Games to play on Zoom, or At Home STEM Activities — your headline needs to hook them in.  

 

Be Practical and Patient

When pitching stories to journalists, it’s important to be practical and patient. Due to the influx of COVID-19 related news, not all stories will be picked up. We must understand that journalists are being bombarded with hundreds of emails from brands trying to get coverage in relation to coronavirus. Be patient with your pitching and vigilant with your storyline and think if the story is really something that the given journalist will be interested in covering. Remember, staying on top of relevant trends is vital to the work of PR professionals, but that doesn’t give you free license to piggyback onto this “trending” pandemic.

 

Associate Your Brand With Good

People will remember companies for their generous acts in a time of crisis. Whether it be donating to food banks, health care centers or volunteering — people will remember these acts of kindness. This type of feel-good content promotes positive messaging and will go a long way in enhancing a company’s reputation. Of course, these acts of kindness should not go unnoticed, you want people to know that your company cares. However, you don’t want to make it seem that your company only participated in these acts of kindness for commercial benefit. 

It is our job to be aware of the ongoing pandemic, and to proceed with caution when it comes to our PR strategies. Bottom line, during COVID-19 it’s important for brands to prioritize the needs of their audience and continue to practice empathetic, positive and mindful marketing to limit backlash from consumers.

Sources: [1]