On March 11, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), bringing significant changes to the workplace, homes and beyond. With work from home and social distancing policies in place, the new normal can feel uncertain and unpredictable. For PR pros, a global health crisis can also widely impact client operations, outreach, news and PR planning. For some tips on how to adjust strategy, the BIGteam has compiled our best practices for operating during a widespread crisis.
Ensure your crisis communications plans are up to date
COVID-19 has led to an unprecedented set of circumstances that typical communications planning doesn’t cover. For each client, it is important to update your crisis plans with correct contacts, new language based on recent events, and additional statements regarding the situation.
Approach proactive outreach on a case-by-case basis
In the current environment, communicators should take extra care when reaching out to the media. Before sending pitches, determine if they contain helpful information in context to the situation to ensure the content is not coming off as tone-deaf or insensitive.
Additionally, any proactive outreach should be highly targeted and tailored to a specific reporter. Keeping an eye on Twitter conversations, especially from reporters you plan on pitching/working with regularly, can also help PR pros keep tabs on the current media landscape. As a general rule: don’t pitch about the crisis unless you can provide truly helpful information or services. Don’t exploit the situation for a client who is not relevant in the conversation. For some examples of what not to do, MuckRack compiled several tweets from reporters who have seen far too many inappropriate COVID-19 related pitches.
Communicate regularly with clients to ensure everyone is on the same page and aware of the situation
If your clients are implementing changes to their business model, or are halting production of a product or service, it is vital that your team is made aware in order to make appropriate adjustments. Your clients should also be advised to potential changes in their PR plan. It’s crucial to set expectations about a potential decrease in press coverage and media pitching. Establishing more frequent check-ins or issues-management calls can help keep everyone in the loop.
Be prepared to change course of action quickly and efficiently. With new updates seemingly happening every hour, widespread crises can change rapidly – and your strategy should be able to keep up.
Keep yourself safe and informed
The WHO’s advice to the public includes:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Maintain social distancing
- Avoid touching your face
For more information, visit the WHO’s COVID-19 information page.
While we miss spending time in the BIGoffice, the BIGteam is prioritizing health by working from home and taking the necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety and health.
If you’re a Boston-based business needing PR or communications assistance during this time, the BIGteam wants to help. BIGfish Communications is offering free virtual office hours for businesses in our city who need help navigating this challenging crisis. We’re all in this together. Learn more here.