By Chantal Cooke, Panpathic Communications
Covid-19 has given us huge challenges as individuals and business owners. Despite the ongoing issues we need to think about what to as we gradually get back to normal, or a close-as-we-can-get-to-normal interim period. At this point your business need to be fit-for-purpose. And you will need to make sure your customers know it.
Exactly when PR moves up the list of priorities will vary from business to business. However, whatever the budget, sooner or later, you are going to want to get out the message that you are ready to provide services and/or products.
Let’s look at why doing PR is so important right now.
People are engaged
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 engaged
Journalists are well set up for working from home so they are looking for relevant content ideas. With fewer press releases coming in, they are more receptive to relevant releases they receive.
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.
Like nothing we’ve seen before
We have been through economic uncertainty before (e.g. 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 crises 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, if 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.
To be clear, this is not about profiteering. Most people are still stuck at home and, if your product or service can benefit them, let them know about it. 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. 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, so keep up your PR with as much helpful advice-based content as possible.
If you’ve been quiet during phase 1, it is important to start making yourself visible again. Useful, relevant advice is the best route, 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. Focus on positive stories about your business to feed the 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 those that managed to be present throughout the previous stages will have acquired big fish status.
THE RIGHT TIME
Right now, invest some time working on PR ideas: get some practical advice on the PR process and implementation. If you have the budget, appoint a good, reliable agency, and if you don’t have money right now, decide what you can yourself. Make a splash and ensure you come to the attention of your existing and potential customers.
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