COVID-19 Comms: Lead with Empathy

March 27, 2020 Sarah Parker

When it comes to brand communications during the ever-changing, uncertain time of COVID-19, there is one main takeaway: Lead with empathy. 

Leading with empathy and humanity was the first point made by John McCartney of Wise PR, one of our three PR experts from across the industry in the second installment of our webinar series Best Practices for Brand Communications in Times of Uncertainty. He was joined by Aisha Fletcher of Brinker International and Bill Zucker of Ketchum PR. 

Bill quickly echoed John's sentiments, saying: 

“Our new brand is empathy + intelligence.” -Bill Zucker 

Now more than ever is the time for brands to listen and to "read the room". Brands should be precise and thoughtful in their communications, asking before anything goes out what it is communicating and who it is trying to reach. These are best practices in the best of times that become especially important now; no one should be force-fitting a story. 

Aisha added that it's the comms' professional's job to push back on leadership now if they want to force a story or narrative that will ultimately be harmful to the brand. And while it's easy to skip steps in a time that feels chaotic and like everything is top priority, we should work harder than ever to be sure we don't skip any. 

Source

Other great takeaways from this panel discussion included: 

  • Be prepared for reentry: Just because you didn't close down during this time doesn't mean you aren't "reopening".
  • Planning now won't be a quarter out; it's week-by-week, and when we make those plans we won't stick to them, but they will keep us grounded.
  • How can we in the PR industry bring value to the work the media is doing? 
  • Remember that journalists are people first, and use this time to build and reinforce relationships, not to send tone-deaf pitches.
  • Use social media to stay on top of not only the news, but your audience and what they're discussing and what questions they need answered. 

A final takeaway? 

"A lack of response says something, but the tone of a response says even more." -Bill Zucker

You can find the recording of this webinar here, and the first one in the series as well as all of our other COVID-19 related resources on this page

Stay safe and healthy and let us know if we can do anything at all to help. 

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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