PR in a pandemic – what should your comms look like in the Covid-19 crisis?
I’ve had several clients, and indeed many good contacts who aren’t clients, ask me how they should communicate as we navigate our ‘new normal’.
While the word ‘unprecedented’ is being wildly bandied about to describe the times in which we are living, there’s no escaping the truth that none of us have had to deal with anything as serious, vast, complex or as fast moving as the global coronavirus pandemic.
So, it’s unsurprising that when it comes to PR, many companies are unsure where they should draw the line, what sort of line they should be drawing, or if they should even be drawing a line at all.
Will it look like I am capitalising on a crisis? How do I share best practice without being perceived as profiteering? Will sharing good news come across as self-congratulatory? If I put out negative news, am I scaremongering? What can I do to stay relevant while being sensitive that so many retailers are under the cosh?
Ask yourself too many questions and you’ll end up in ever decreasing circles, which only ever leads to PR paralysis.
Instead, you should ask yourself this: does my story truly add value – not a sales plug – to the retail audiences I am trying to reach, who are busy putting out their own fires?
Below are my four considerations when thinking about PR during the pandemic.
It’s not about you
Now is not the time to operate in your own bubble. Doing so will mean you risk appearing out of touch, insensitive or irreverent – or all three. So steer away from putting out content, such as product updates or solution launches, that revolve solely around your business. Your comms right now need to put your retail audiences first and should address their needs and concerns.
Be generous with your data
Retailers still rely on data, even with a global pandemic on their hands, so be generous with the insights your solutions can generate.
Take for example, BounceX, a behavioural marketing tech provider, which is publishing its Covid-19 Retail Pulse, a fortnightly data drilldown, which opens up its data for free on conversions and revenue performance across key retail verticals, overlaid with analysis and advice on how retailers can tailor their email marketing.
These insights help retailers build a picture, based on facts, of how shoppers are behaving, which will be of great value to overlay with their own data, as well as providing a valuable finger on the pulse for media who are reporting on the outbreak.
We’re in it together
Retailers have been quick to rally to support customers who are being affected by coronavirus – whether it’s Costa offering free hot drinks to NHS staff or Coop offering to bridge the school meals gap.
In the same way, tech companies have also been quick to support the retailers they serve – as we’ve been covering over on Retail Connections. Letting people know about business support you are offering can be a great way to deliver much-needed help to retailers as well as sharing some good news at a time when the news cycle is far from cheery.
Migrate your content online
Editorial teams at many traditional media outlets are grappling with a challenging news agenda that’s changing faster than they can keep up with; they simply can’t be across everything right now. This means considering social as well as traditional media as part of your comms mix will be particularly important. Social distancing has seen a boom in the use of social media as we crave the conversation and connection that we were used to having in more normal times.
Use content intended for thought leadership articles on LinkedIn Publisher, or consider setting up webinars with your clients discussing topical issues rather than going down the traditional customer story route alone, for example.
Finally – remember, we’re here to help too. It’s really important to us, at a time of uncertainty and change, that we are here for the tech businesses that support the retail industry and who will be integral in shaping the future of retail – whatever retail looks like on the ‘other side’ of Covid-19.
Regardless of whether you’re a client of Fieldworks, if we can lend an ear, offer any advice or simply just shoot the breeze if WFH cabin-fever’s kicking in – we’ll always make ourselves available. After all, we are all in this together.