During unprecedented times, it’s best to tailor your marketing strategies to change in line with the environment the world is currently living in. Many businesses have transformed their marketing plan in the past couple of months due to COVID-19, and we can guarantee that if they did it correctly, they probably received more media attention than they ever had before. So, the question stands: how do you move forward with public relations efforts during rocky climates?
There are two answers to that question. The first answer is to get innovative with it. The second answer is that it depends on your business. However, we’re going to outline our strategies on how to go about doing so and how you could move forward to be as productive as possible.
How to address a pandemic
The most important step to take is to address the situation at hand - think of this step as public relations crisis management. Your role is to create an impactful and meaningful message that addresses the pandemic and how your business is responding to it. This means creating a consistent message to reach your public audiences. Display the message on your homepage, social media accounts, and any other relevant platforms.
Is the pandemic impacting my consumers, and if so, how can I give back?
Will my consumer’s priorities shift as a result of the current climate, and if so, does the change in my marketing efforts reflect that?
Does the pandemic impact my product/service, and if so, how can I communicate that to my consumers?
It doesn’t have to be anything lengthy unless you plan on addressing the issue further into details, which would make sense if you work in an industry related to the pandemic. For example, hospitals and insurance companies had more information to share on the COVID-19 pandemic than local boutiques and restaurants. In this case, you would add a “see more info” call-to-action that would lead to your newsroom or landing page with the full overview of your response.
This will increase the relationships with your current and potential consumers because it shows that you are being proactive. Taking the necessary precautions can be what ultimately sinks or floats your ship, in this case, the ship is your business. During times like this, it is also important to be as transparent and honest as possible. With everything being uncertain, how your business is dealing with the pandemic shouldn’t be.
Create a campaign around a pandemic
This step is important if your goal is to get media when all that is being covered is pandemic related news. Keep in mind hard news will always take precedence over feature stories, especially when the whole world is being affected by it. It’s important to take some time to brainstorm new campaign focal points and strategies.
How does my product/service relate to the pandemic?
What kind of value can I offer the public that may or may not include my original target audience?
How can I spin the news I was going to promote into something that is related to the current climate?
Example: Imagine you’re an entrepreneur who solely hosts workshops and has a lot of experience and knowledge with the digital space. One workshop event you had planned has now moved back and have nothing newsworthy now. You move your workshops to Zoom calls and are more active on social media because you understand the shift that is taking place. You think about it - and you realize your expertise within the digital space could help other businesses stay afloat during a pandemic the same way you have. This has now become your new PR campaign.
Once you have answered these questions, the next step is to craft the campaign. Start out by researching who you’re going to target. Will it be local media? Is your news of value to reach national outlets? Get your media documents ready, which may include your press release, one-sheeter, photos, etc. Then prepare to pitch to the media contacts you found.
When pitching your voice should be empathetic - remember, you’re selling a story, not your product/service. If the economy is being impacted, it’s not the best first impression to be a salesman. Instead, position yourself as an expert who is sharing valuable information.
Leave a lasting impression
This is the final piece of a successful PR campaign during a pandemic, but it’s also a piece that you should make sure to think about before creating your campaign - in reference to the last section we touched on. Not only is this how your brand will be established post-pandemic, but it’s the last (and lasting) impression you’ll leave on consumers.
Some things to consider:
How does the information or service/product I’m promoting in my campaign help my audience?
Is it of value to leave a lasting impression on my audiences?
If I received the information or service/product I’m promoting, would I deem it of value, and if so, how much?
Throughout COVID-19, we saw a great deal of businesses doing so. Some restaurants decided to give away food to essential workers, and some provided a discounted price to students and others who were affected by the pandemic. All these efforts did not go unnoticed. In fact, it led to more media attention, consumers, and promising revenue in the future from these consumers.
In hard times of a pandemic, the biggest thing to focus on is not what others can do for you, but what you can do for others. That is the KEY is gaining public relations.