Pivoting Your Public Relations Strategy in the Wake of COVID-19

Megan Redzia - 05/26/2020

With COVID-19 dominating headlines, how should you adapt your public relations strategy? Find out how you can leverage public relations to position your business to flourish in the new normal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed just about everything in terms of how we operate – personally and professionally. Your PR strategy should pivot in the face of this “new normal,” but it’s critical to not lose momentum during this time. Businesses that maintain their PR efforts will be positioned to recover faster as the economy improves by preserving their brand awareness, or in some cases even growing it.

According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, companies that invested in marketing during past global recessions flourished after the slowdown and outperformed rivals. But how do you adapt your PR strategy to retain stability while staying relevant? Here’s some practices we’re implementing for our clients.

Focus on Your Audience

People are more worried than ever before about their health, their families and their jobs. covid19_target_audienceTrying to reach them with messages that aren’t related to their current needs and concerns will not only fall on deaf ears, but could be perceived as insensitive. Take a step back and truly analyze your company news and announcements. If they aren’t helpful to your audience at this time, then hold off.

I understand you may have been gearing up for a product launch for a year and were finally ready to hit the go button (many of our clients were in the same boat), but it’s important to assess whether your product launch will be received well during COVID-19. If your product delivers a benefit that will bring value to your audience in the current environment, then you shouldn’t delay your launch.

Think about what your business can offer to assist your audience. This may be in the form of content that provides timely advice and tips on working from home, staying safe, remaining healthy and active, and keeping kids busy (trust me us parents need this wink wink).

Support Your Community and Workforce

According to a recent survey from the American Association of Advertising Agencies, 56% percent of consumers report being happy to learn about how brands are helping in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Not that you need a reason to pitch in and aid your local community, but it’s reassuring to know that your audience is paying attention to how you’re giving back.

Consider how your company can support local hospitals, school systems, frontline workers, and small businesses. This Forbes article shares some creative ways companies are providing support during COVID-19 to get your brainstorm juices flowing. Don’t forget about your most important audience – your employees. This is a challenging time for all businesses, but a little goodwill can go a long way with your staff who are working tirelessly to support your company. Even allowing for modified schedules or additional time off can support parents who are now combining work, caregiving and homeschooling.

Understand What Media Needs

media_interview_covid19Many media outlets have dedicated the majority of their resources to the pandemic. They’re trying to keep up with the rapid news cycle while facing challenges such as reduced staff, tighter deadlines, working from home, and virtual interviews. Be empathetic to what they are experiencing as you evaluate whether or not your news is relevant during the crisis.

Think about how your business and internal experts can add value for media at this time and work your media outreach around this thought leadership. Companies that can offer solutions to current challenges – working from home, health and wellness, managing workforces – are likely to get media’s attention. Your experts are your greatest asset right now, so tap into the insight they have to offer. If they haven’t been media trained, now is the time to do so. You want them ready to hit the ground running when you get an opportunity.

Make sure you or your public relations agency is also vetting reporters. It’s always important to make sure you are appropriately pitching a reporter, but with media resources being so strained it can now make or break your brand. Some are ONLY focused on COVID-19, while others are trying to balance the crisis with other news about their beat. This is a great time to leverage trade media if your story has an industry angle because those reporters need to continue delivering news outside of COVID-19.

Go Beyond Media Relations

Media relations is a big part of public relations, but it isn’t the only tactic in our tool belt. If you’ve analyzed what your company has to offer the media and it isn’t relevant at this time, then leverage some other public relations tactics to reach your audience. Creating compelling, educational content on your website and social channels is a great way to keep your audience engaged with your company. For guidelines on how to keep your constituents updated with content, read this blog from my colleague.

Webinars have also become an effective tool to reach customers, prospects and employees in today’s remote working environment. With many in-person events canceled, webinars present a cost-effective opportunity to interact with your target audience. If you already had a live event planned, pivot your strategy to repurpose the assets you’ve created to host a webinar or virtual event. For tips on getting the most out of webinars in today’s environment, read this blog post.

Look to the Future

You know all those days where you wished for some extra time to really plan ahead? Now you have them! Use this time wisely to be prepared for the long-term. Rethink your marketing communications objectives and the role public relations, social media and content marketing will play to achieve them. If you had previously established KPIs for 2020, they likely need to be adjusted. Evaluate realistically what success should look like for you post COVID-19 and develop a roadmap to get you there.

If you have questions about how your business can pivot its public relations strategy to avoid losing valuable brand visibility and awareness during this uncertain time, send me an email to setup a call.

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