Communications amid a coronavirus backdrop

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If this weather is anything to go by, spring has finally sprung - but with it, none of the usual optimism for the sunny days ahead. Here our editorial director Ellen Widdup explores how PR has rapidly adapted to communicate in the face of coronavirus.

 

There is no use pretending that we – like every other business in the UK - are not feeling the effects of this pandemic.

We had grand plans for this summer – a host of seasonal events to latch on to with fun and inventive campaigns, theatre productions to dazzle the Suffolk seaside towns and galas, balls and fundraisers focused on numerous sporting fixtures - now all cancelled or postponed

But we have rapidly adapted – and not just in our ability to work as effectively remotely.

Primarily this is because we are the frontline for many of our clients who are heads-down dealing with the immediate issues.

We work with a district council that needs stay on top of communications to residents about everything from recycling and rubbish collections right through to housing, benefits and council tax payments.

We work with an accountancy firm inundated with requests on how to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and negotiate the grants and loan offerings with the Bank of England and HMRC.

And we have a leading African make-up brand launching in the UK which has jumped through hurdles to import the product at a time when ports and airports are barely operational and will now need to change strategy and sell online rather than in store.

With all our clients, tactics have switched from being reactive to moving towards making a real contribution in the current, hugely challenging climate.

What’s more, we are being called upon by news editors like never before.

Newspapers are short-staffed. They are struggling to fill their pages. And meanwhile the demand for news is insatiable and the appetite is particularly growing for expert commentary from people “in the know”.

As a result, newsdesks all over the country are calling out for stories that are corona-led but focus more on business’ observations.

They want our clients to delve into the nitty-gritty of new legislation, to explore the effects on individuals in terms of health, finance and law.

And therefore our clients are appearing in print left, right and centre offering help, advice and expertise.

What’s more, our understanding of the power of social media has never been more beneficial.

Social media usage is through the roof as people crave connection and conversation with the outside world.

This has allowed us to explore different ways for our clients to reach those who need them most.

Serious topics aside, there has also been scope for our creativity to flourish.

After all, the media are also looking for some stories that give their readers a break from all this.

It’s a bit like “silly season” (a period in summer when the mass media focus on trivial or frivolous matters for lack of major news stories) while in the middle of a war-zone.

As a result, we've done a complete pivot on much of our work, adapted and mobilised to add value to clients.

And what this has shown is that despite isolating, our team continues to thrive on collaboration.

Seeing our colleagues faces on Zoom and Skype – at first so awkward – is quickly becoming weirdly uplifting.

Despite the inevitable adjustment to the new ways of working , we have actually ramped up our creative and innovative approaches and united – like we always have – to pull out all the stops for the businesses we work for.

So much so, in fact, that we are drastically over-servicing without charging a penny more and this has allowed us to help numerous small businesses, entrepreneurs and individuals survive when money is tight.

Of course, as a profession we are used to rapidly changing situations, crisis management and quick thinking so are well-placed to respond in situations like this.

But what is becoming apparent is that we are also doing a great deal of good – helping our clients reach out to those who need them most and spreading news that is not just informative, but vital to many.

Nobody knows what the business landscape will look like in six months time. But we intend to help the businesses we work with to get through this period and reach that new normal on the horizon.

If you need our help too, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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