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COVID-19 – How Can PR Help Your Brand?

As a consumer brand marketer, what should you be doing now and what are the public relations opportunities to keep your brand salient during these difficult times?

There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, and as self-isolation and quarantine become the new normal, brands are moving quickly to adjust their communications as they respond to the changing environment. At FORWARD, we believe that there is a positive role for brand communications in engaging and supporting your consumers during this period. So long as you are mindful of context and are not tone deaf, there are many reasons why appropriate brand communications can continue. 

When crafted carefully, public relations campaigns provide a gateway for brands to stay connected, communicate clearly in an authentic way, drive engagement and build trust. For some brands it will be simply sharing information, for others it might be creating uplifting, inspiring, or educational content to help people through the challenges ahead.

Appropriate crisis response and communication is the immediate priority

In addition to your internal communications, communicating with your customers and consumers about the immediate changes and impacts to your business should be top of mind at the moment.  What should they expect?  How are you supporting them?  How are you adjusting your service delivery, if required, to meet their needs? 

Do you have more stock coming to supermarkets? Will you be adding additional services? How are you supporting the community? 

Unless you are Qantas it is unlikely the media will cover these types of communications, however direct to consumer communications can be easily achieved via email, social or through paid advertising. Consumers are facing many mini crises on a daily basis and are looking for brands to help them avoid the clutter and the confusion. Therefore, we suggest providing clear, simple and supportive messages to make their transition to ‘staying at home’ life easier, and maybe even put a smile on their faces.

We have seen some great local examples of this already with UberEats announcing the launch of its ‘leave outside the door’ drop off option, Chris Hemsworth offering free access to his workout videos, and Melbourne Zoo offering digital tours and livestreams of its animals.

Are there opportunities in uncertain times?

Even in these uncertain times, we at FORWARD believe that there are opportunities for brands to play a role in the lives of consumers to help support them, educate them and entertain them.  Put yourselves in their shoes, understand that they are stressed, and ask yourself if there is an authentic way in which you can provide meaningful content, and if your brand has a relevant role to play.

Media consumption is on the rise as people have more time to consume it (except perhaps for radio given driving commutes are down), and in many lifestyle media outlets we are already starting to see COVID-19 fatigue, with journalists calling out for positive news stories.  

Be inspired by the likes of the McDonald’s offering free coffee to healthcare workers, local distillery Archie Rose using its production line to create hand sanitiser and even Kevin Bacon’s #IStayHomeFor community-driven social campaign, and Coca-Cola’s Staying Apart Communications.

Although it is not business as usual, we think that providing consumers with some continuity, whether through your social, earned or influencer activity can help consumers feel less uncertain and alone. 

As an example, given the world is cooking through the coronavirus isolation how could your food brand participate and help your consumers fight boredom and bring joy to their day? This might be through a free cooking class with a foodie influencer, live Facebook Q&As, tips and tricks shared through a podcast, with content to share on your website and pushed out through your social channels. 

Here are some other ideas about how you can get your message across without physical presence, large production teams and budgets: 

  • Repurposing or editing existing content to provide practical, credible advice and expertise that consumers are craving and making your social channels work harder for you
  • Embracing new sales channels or tweaking your service format to help make it easier for consumers to access your products such as partnering with B2C delivery services like Marley Spoon and Hello Fresh
  • Utilising your brand ambassadors’ super powers by leveraging their expertise and knowledge to provide consumers with useful information, advice and inspiration that could be disseminated through social or editorial media placement
  • Leveraging influencers engaged audiences to create unique experiences through their channels like meet and greets or tutorials through Instagram Live, a ‘feel good’ podcast series or a virtual tour of some of our favourite digital celebrities’ homes
  • Supporting your community and ‘paying it forward’ by offering a complimentary service or product to those most in need, launching virtual offerings via social, webinars and podcasts and assisting local businesses
  • Building your own community virtually by inviting consumers to virtual events and product demonstrations, inviting them to get their loved ones involved with family-friendly content and activities, or collating user generated content into a digital mosaic.

Plan now for recovery

Although it feels like the world is shutting down, this is not forever. It is unclear how long we will be in this state of isolation but you can start thinking about what you will do once all of this is over. We expect that consumers and businesses will want to return to normal as fast as possible. Will you be ready to respond? 

Check list for COVID-19 brand communications

  • Be authentic to your brand and maintain your trusted tone of voice
  • Be empathetic, helpful and relevant rather than in sales mode
  • Make the most of your ambassadors and influencers to create content that can be pitched to the media and/or amplified through your social channels
  • Stay close to your agency partners and continue to ideate ways to stay in the conversation
  • Understand that the world and your consumers are more than likely to look different after the crisis – be ready to embrace the change and evolve your approach
  • Don’t panic! This too shall pass

We are here to help you keep moving FORWARD.

Wherever you are on your planning path with your response to COVID-19, we are here to help and are ready to support your brand in communicating sensitively and authentically to consumers. We are open for business. Please get in touch if you would like advice or support, we are all in this together.