COVID-19 Comms: Emerging from a Crisis with a Communications Plan

April 20, 2020 Sarah Parker

In week five of our webinar series Best Practices for Brand Communications in Times of Uncertainty, we tackled the question that has been lurking in the back of many minds for the past few weeks: What do we do, as PR and communications professionals, when it's time to "go back to normal"? 

There is no easy answer, of course, but our panel of experts had some insightful thoughts around the topic of re-entry. This week's panel included Sara Leutzinger, Director, External Communications and Content Strategy for Boys and Girls Club of America, Leslie Kimball, Chief, Communications and Branding of the Distilled Spirits Council, and Brent Diggins, Partner of Allison+Partners. 

Brent kicked things off by breaking down the disruption lifecycle we're all experiencing as part of the pandemic: 

This really highlights how planning needs to be based on the phase you're currently in and the position of your particular brand in your particular industry. Scenario-based planning will help your brand the most right now; prepare, prepare, prepare, going through different possible scenarios and how your brand should handle them both internally and externally. Let data and insights be your guide for both. 

Regular social listening is key, to keep a pulse on sentiment which can shift quickly. Use it to guide your messaging and be sensitive in your tone based on the latest updates. 

The number-one takeaway? Nobody knows what the "new normal" is going to be. 

Sara discussed the importance of community and thinking about your brand in those terms. Of the resources you've put together, what can you bring back to your community to help them as we move through the different phases of this pandemic? People are also looking for positivity and uplifting stories; look for those and amplify them both internally and externally as they surface. 

Don't be afraid to tap influencers to help share your messaging, particularly if you have a younger target audience. 

Related to community stories, Leslie shared that over 700 distillers across the U.S. have pivoted to producing hand sanitizer to help fight the virus: 

Other key takeaways from the discussion include: 

  • Now is the time to over-communicate, both internally and externally; it keeps everyone informed, on the same page, and gives a clarity of purpose to your team 
  • The right tone for messaging right now is collaboration, maybe even with your competitors 
  • People are also looking for more humor and light in communications as this situation evolves— just be careful that you're being sensitive, first and foremost
  • Concentrate on reputation metrics during this period 
  • This is an opportunity to re-imagine events and get really creative with promotion; it's possible you could reach a whole new audience due to the circumstances 

A final thought? If everyone re-enters with the exact same sentiment, it could read as inauthentic. Be sure you frame things for your brand, your industry, your audience. 

Thank you again to everyone who joined us during this webinar series, whether you made it to one webinar, all five, or just caught this blog post. (You can read highlights and takeaways from week four's webinar here, week three here, week two here, and week one here.) 

We appreciate your time and attention, and hope you are all safe and well. 

About the Author

Sarah Parker

Sarah A. Parker is the Content Marketing Manager for Cision, planning, producing and curating content across channels. She previously managed content and social media for several different brands, in addition to working as a freelance writer. Find her on Twitter @SparkerWorks where she is happy to talk all things social media strategy, the dynamic world of PR, and mastiffs.

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