Four ways to strike the right PR tone in the COVID-19 climate

We asked Sophie Wilson, owner of PR and branding agency, Tuesday Media (and Fresh Egg partner) for a perspective of what organisations need to be thinking about from a PR perspective as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

Here's what Sophie had to say about striking the right PR tone in the current climate.

The COVID-19 crisis has created huge changes to the way we function as businesses and as a society. With new developments happening on a daily basis, how can companies respond in a way that limits damage and reassures employees and stakeholders?

A research report called The Impact of Catastrophe on Shareholder Value states that at times of crisis, businesses “who managed an effective response gained an average 5% in net stock value over the same period of time.” 

In this blog post, we will look at four ways to strike the right tone with PR and communications during COVID-19.

#1 - Real-time, informed communication is key

Communication plays a fundamental role in all businesses, but never more so than during a crisis. Your clients, employees, partners and stakeholders will be looking to you for information and leadership at this critical time. It is therefore vitally important that you respond quickly and effectively. 

Make sure that you keep up to date with developments as they emerge and make decisions based on reliable, evidence-based information. There are numerous instances of fake news being shared on social media – don’t be drawn in. Instead, use trusted authoritative sources such as the World Health Organisation and Public Health England before drafting official statements.

#2 - Be calm, human and authentic

Brands who respond with integrity and authenticity during this pandemic will gain their audience’s trust and respect. Part of your role as a leader or PR professional, as the strapline of the insurance company formerly known as Commercial Union (now Aviva) goes, is to “take a crisis and avoid making it into a drama”. The vast majority of people will respond well to instructions if they are calmly explained in an authentic voice.

COVID-19 is an unprecedented event and it’s OK to not have all of the answers straight away. Keep communicating and, if you don’t have the answers at the moment, be transparent and assure your website visitors and customers that you’re working on it.

Watch our webinar where the team discuss 'how to adapt to changing customer needs'

#3 - Be values-driven 

If your business has a set of values, you already have an important framework for how you work as a company and what your customers will experience in the process.

It is a key moment to revert to your fundamental values, which will help direct the tone you set and how you act over the next days, weeks and months.

Your brand values are the cornerstone that genuinely reflects your organisation’s purpose. If you communicate in a way that is congruent with these values, your stakeholders are more likely to trust your brand, the organisation behind it, and your leadership. 

#4 - Remain optimistic 

The word “crisis” comes from the Greek for “turning point of a disease”. The Chinese character for crisis is also a combination of two words - “danger” and “opportunity”. We can take comfort from the fact that a crisis is not an endpoint, but rather, a critical moment when things can turn out for the better. 

Yes, we are living in times of huge uncertainty, but this doesn’t mean that the situation is all negative. Companies are having to embrace new technologies and more agile and flexible ways of working. They are also having to up their communication game, both internally and externally, in order to share knowledge and to stay connected with customers and employees alike.

The COVID-19 pandemic could already be providing opportunities for the benefit of business, society and the environment. As leaders, it is our job to keep our stakeholders and our people motivated, positive and ready to embrace these opportunities when they come. 

About the blog author, Sophie Wilson

Sophie has led business transformation, development, M&A activity, comms and rebranding exercises for broadcast, digital and software companies as well as to FTSE 100s in a consultancy capacity. Sophie has 14+ years experience of marketing, PR, sales and business development in the art, broadcast, technology and media sectors.

Sophie Wilson, owner - Tuesday Media

Discover more about Sophie and her PR Agency, Tuesday Media.

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