Amanda here at Integrate. As you know, I’m writing this article amid one of the biggest — if not the biggest — global crises of our lifetimes: COVID-19. The virus has ravaged communities’ ability to feel safe and stay healthy. And, as you know, it’s toll on economies around the world, including the United States, which officially entered a recession in June 2020, has been nothing short of panic-inducing.
Every business leader from CEO down is grappling with how to deal with this crisis. Whether it’s retooling operations and ensuring your employees and customers feel safe and heard, or navigating how to keep a good public image even as things continue to evolve. For many, it seems like there’s a new problem at every turn, and the impetus is to react quickly to resolve. Bottom line: you want your business to survive, which means you need to turn a profit. But at the same time, you can’t lose sight of your purpose or how you’ll be perceived as you push forward.
That’s where public relations comes into play. Like a good story, effective communication with your stakeholders (your employees, your customers, your investors, your community, etc.) is paramount. If there ever was a time your business needed to communicate clearly, effectively and ethically to stakeholders, it would, without a doubt, be now.
That’s why in this quick video, I share my tips of the trade gleaned from my 15 years of experience in PR, on top of actual experience Integrate’s PR rockstars are encountering on a near-daily basis. With a good story, they’ll help you come out on top with impressions that will actually move the needle and let you be a part of a bigger narrative.
Make it Easier for Reporters To Do Their Jobs
Put simply, provide reporters with what they need and when they need it — no sugarcoating it and no “spinning” it, either. Even before the pandemic, reporters were absolutely overworked and underpaid. Now, it’s like a microscope has been slammed down onto them, with millions of people relying on them to relay important information about current events.
Don’t make their job any harder for them than it has to be — but what does that look like in practice? Remember who their audience is: who’s going to be reading their publication? Give them content that you know will appeal to their readers and run with it. Additionally, you should be providing succinct and easy-to-read information they can disseminate quickly, credible and reliable sources, no fluff and strictly self-serving quotes.
The easier you can make their jobs, the better and more likely your story will be heard. Right now, and all year round.
Determine Which Problems Your Products Can Solve Right Now
Since COVID-19, consumers’ shopping habits have changed drastically, and depending on what you have to sell, people may be less inclined to buy than usual. So, what do you do? It’s all about the messaging you use. Just take a look at this pithy, yet highly effective ad from this essentials company, Public Goods.
Questions you should be asking yourself are:
- How will this product benefit my customer right now?
- Can this product save customers time?
- Can this product save customers money?
- Can this product make them feel safer?
- Can this product help reduce stress?
That said, don’t forget your businesses’ true purpose. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to a company’s philanthropic or ethical purpose in the world — which includes supporting stakeholders during times of crisis. Think about how your actions during times of uncertainty can contribute to the greater good and provide a positive social impact.
Customers, especially younger audiences, want and crave this from businesses. Apply your purpose and share it with the media. But remember to be authentic.
Don’t Shy Away from Difficult Topics
Today, many brands are eagerly taking on social issues for both reputational and social good purposes. Gillette, for example, has addressed toxic masculinity, while Patagonia is making efforts to tackle the climate crisis. This is an opportunity for you to express your true passion for social causes such as the Black Lives Matter movement, wealth inequality, homelessness, water scarcity, food waste and more.
However, as Allie mentioned in our communication guide during the coronavirus, you mustn’t use this crisis as a time to “score” your brand some points. The cause must truly and authentically align with your purpose as a company. Otherwise, you could severely hurt your image. You don’t want to be the next case study on what not to do.
As Winston Churchill once said, “never waste a good crisis,” and while I get that what is happening is the opposite of good, you can certainly use this time to evaluate what you have to offer and, in some instances, it can be the time for your brand to shine. Even though it might seem scary to put yourself out there in a time of crisis, you must act now and avoid being complacent. Those who speak up, speak loud and speak right will be the ones that people remember.