The coronavirus pandemic has struck America into a national emergency with an unforeseeable end and it’s difficult to keep up with the changing dynamics of this pandemic. As we continue to flatten the curve, the work habits and processes of millions who are working from home are a new “normal” for the business world. To help organizations with essential communications tools to handle the shifting normal of this pandemic, below are four communications tools to consider.
- Media monitoring
New reports and health orders are slowing, but updates are still released every day making it vital to monitor the media during this time. It’s virtually impossible to filter through all the news, which is why our first essential communication tool is media monitoring for your brand or organization. Communications professionals must learn how to navigate the news to ensure they are grabbing accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19 and on their brand or organization. If a communications professional is seeking to pitch media, filtered searches allow communications team members to target the media outlet or journalist that best relates to their industry. Instead of searching “coronavirus,” one should search the specific industry in which they work. Currently, almost every news cycle is dedicated to the latest updates on COVID-19 and efforts to reopen the economy. Therefore, simplifying the search range is far more efficient to find the news you’re looking for about your brand or organization and to ensure you’re reaching the right journalists.
- Regular updates to stakeholders
The second essential communication tool we suggest is regular updates to stakeholders. During this pandemic, it is important to continue to keep stakeholders and employees informed about what is being done and how the organization is responding. It’s also valuable to provide stakeholders tips on what they can be doing to keep up with the changing normal. To do this, assign a person or outsource to a firm gathering news clips every morning to send these daily updates to inform along with action items the stakeholder can take. Sometimes the action item may be to sit tight for a few days, but some form of communication is better than silence. Providing regular updates allow the recipients to take minimal time to take in the most relevant information and action items guide the recipient with next steps.
- Footprint in the media
No matter what your job entails, COVID-19 has disrupted the entire nation, including in public relations and communications. While our third essential communication tool is a footprint in the media, first consider why and how. As mentioned earlier, the media is continually releasing information on coronavirus. The media is overwhelmed with the amount of content its receiving and processing. It is necessary to ensure your message reaches your intended audiences and doesn’t get lost among all the other media messages. If your organization’s message needs to reach the masses, consider how your message is different or valuable to the audiences you are trying to reach. Create the message from the audiences’ point of view, not just your organization’s perspective.
Consider first if your organization should have a footprint in the media. If your organization needs messaging around COVID-19 to the public, it’s vital to consider resources you may have not considered in the past. For example, a response statement to an article may be more valuable than a press release. Or, perhaps a series of op-eds can help you get the message to the intended audience without a mass press release distribution.
Finally, be sure that you’re conveying the right message. If your workforce has been affected with layoffs or furloughs, is there a way to offer help? Does your message seem insensitive to your stakeholders? How does your message help stakeholders and the public? It’s not enough to just do your part, but it’s important to think and message beyond your organization during this challenging time.
- Plan for strategic counsel
This is the most challenging time for business operations and you shouldn’t have to do it alone. The final essential communication tool is to guarantee your business has strategic counsel during and after COVID-19. Strategic counsel varies based on the organization and needs. Perhaps its legal counsel, or perhaps your organization is closely related to COVID-19 and your needs include legal, medical and media professionals. It is important to understand your company’s goals, values, and business strategy during this time and understand that counsel may be necessary to assist with this pandemic. By uniting the right message, media channel and audience, you can help your organization further its strategic goals, despite the challenges we all face.
As PR professionals, we believe that you must start to think about what happens after the coronavirus outbreak and what does a return to normal look like. While we know that the effects of COVID-19 will last for years to come, once the pandemic begins slowing, many organizations will need to further its messages through public and media relations efforts. Currently, we view this pandemic in four stages. One: What are the facts and where do we turn for information. This stage is over. Two: Crisis with information changing daily and new messages that need to be communicated every day. We are still in stage two. Three: Preparation for how we return to some normalcy where COVID-19 isn’t the leading news story. This will likely last the remainder of 2020. And, four: The calm after the storm, which will likely be in 2021.
This pandemic has created stress and uncertainty for almost every organization. Know that you aren’t alone in feeling this way and know that there are people to support you through this crisis.