COVID-19 Comms: The Power of PR in Times of Crisis

April 13, 2020 Sarah Parker

For week four of our webinar series Best Practices for Brand Communications in Times of Uncertainty we pivoted back to our original format of inviting a panel of PR experts from across the industry to share their expertise with our audience, including answering all the questions they might have on their mind during this difficult time. 

This week we were joined by Jennifer Nelson, Vice President, Corporate Communications
 of AbbVie, Will Briganti, Senior Director, Corporate Communications for Nasdaq, and Lewis Goldberg, Managing Partner of KCSA Strategic Communications. 

Lewis kicked things off by echoing the foundation of COVID-19 communications our panelists touched on in week one: 

"Communicate, then over-communicate. Be empathetic." 

Now is the time for transparency and frequency in communications both internally and externally. The public will remember how brands conducted themselves through this crisis and hold them accountable for it. 

Jennifer followed this up by emphasizing the audience; another crucial area to always lead with empathy: 

"With any audience you're communicating to, you need to think about meeting them at their point of need." 

Balancing short-term communications with long-term can feel especially challenging in a time when we have no idea what is going to happen next and the best we can do is plan week-to-week. Will said his team is holding daily calls, which are intense but allow them to stay focused and coordinated with key media contacts. 

Find what works for your team and decide how much of this time you want to use for planning; more focus is shifting to the future and how a brand might plan it's "re-entry" into the market sometime in coming months. 

Other key takeaways: 

  • Stay on top of social listening to keep tabs on the conversations happening there and stay ahead of any conversational shifts that may occur there.
  • When it comes to launches in the current environment, you've got to take it on a case-by-case basis, considering the product, the industry and every other detail.
  • As the frequency of communication increases, think of ways to be creative with it, tapping platforms you've never tapped before to see what the response is like.
  • The traditional rubric of messaging still applies. You still must think about who you are communicating to and what a win looks like.
  • Temper your expectations for coverage significantly and understand that journalists have absolutely no tolerance for bad pitches right now. 

Most importantly: Keep in mind that no one has a definitive answer for what to do right now. We are all just adapting to the situation as it evolves, and that's why it's so important to lead with empathy and a sense of humanity in everything that we do as communication professionals. 

You can find the full recording of this session here, and the entire series on this page as part of our larger COVID-19 resources page. Next week's webinar will focus more on strategy for "the new normal" as we start to think about what awaits us on the uncertain other end of this. 

Please stay safe and healthy, and as always, let us know if there is anything we can do 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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