In one of the most remembered episodes from the 90’s sitcom, Friends, Ross enlists Rachel and Chandler to help him get a new couch up a flight of stairs and into his apartment. As they work their way up the stairs, he repeatedly shouts “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!” to his friends to maneuver the couch around the corners. That episode is not unlike our current situation— the stairs are the pesky coronavirus, the couch is our communications, and Ross, Rachel and Chandler are us.
When it comes to communicating with employees, customers and our community, we have to pivot our messaging in order to adapt to the ever-changing environment with sensitivity not only to the economic crisis, but also to the public health, government, social and information crises. Now is a critical time for businesses to focus on growing mind share and market share through public relations to strengthen their brands both now and in the future.
When crisis knocks, changes in attitude and behavior are inevitable. And because of that, shifting the way we communicate to be empathetic to those changes is critical.
Take a look at the attitudes and behaviors you see now to determine the best messages to convey. With changes in buying, selling, working, eating and traveling, assess what money is being spent on, how people are feeling, what matters most to people and where they are getting information.
Companies who prepare for how to meet the needs of their employees and customers both now and later will be the ones who come out on the other side with stronger relationships and strengthened brand loyalty. Consider what to expect in 30 days, 90 days, six months and one year later.
What might the situation look like for your customers, your business, your community and our world? Develop a few scenarios and plan around them in order to create the most effective path forward for your brand. Use your intuition and experience to create scenarios that are relevant, plausible, challenging and memorable. Those scenarios will help create value that will open doors with new business, joint ventures and new market entry.
Understanding your customer’s attitudes and behaviors plus planning around scenarios for your business will then help you find the best public relations strategies to employ for your brand to think beyond the here and now. Our world in isolation has resulted in our communities craving information and connection more than ever. Using creative ways to connect with employees and customers will help keep you top of mind now and when the uncertainty passes.
Based on your possible scenarios, map out what to say, how to say it and who to say it to in order to develop communications that evolve over time. Then, determine how to position your business now and on the other side of this season to keep employees and customers engaged, to gear up for launches, events and services that are delayed at the moment but will happen later, to help other business owners and your community, and to provide your community with information they need.
Here are five PR strategies to guide your communications:
Many businesses have been exercising their creative juices to flex operations and use communications to maintain and build loyalty with these strategies.
A great example is The Southern Coterie, who has leveraged the expertise and knowledge of its members to provide valuable resources and information on timely topics impacting their members and distributing those through email, webinars and blog posts.
Harvest Jewels saw a need in their community when Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mobile’s largest fundraiser was cancelled due to COVID-19 and their family meal program was put on hold. Founder and designer Rosemary Corte created the “Give through Harvest” campaign, focused on providing for organizations in the community that needed it most. They also launched a collaboration with blogger and influencer Caroline Bramlett of LCB Style with a special design curated by Caroline to celebrate women who are everyday heroes in our communities with a giveaway of a Harvest necklace and pendant with proceeds from sales of the design benefitting the nonprofit, Get Us PPE.
Designer Mary Beth Greene, owner of MB Greene, partnered with artist/designer Lisette Normann and owner of The Fairhope Store and The Orange Beach Store to create a combination of three packages with products from their respective brands that are ideal for corporate gifting. The packages were then jointly promoted to businesses as thank you gifts for their customers through a “Shop Local. Support Local.” campaign featuring photography of the two owners and their products that aimed to put faces with the names of local, small businesses with a message that by supporting them, you are supporting local people and local families in your community.
By scanning attitudes and behaviors and planning scenarios specific to your business, we can determine the best public relations strategies to apply and the best messages to convey to strengthen our brands now and in the future. Shifting communications to build brand awareness will help you gain mind and market share when the crisis is over. Communicating through a crisis is like managing any other difficult situation. We can either give in, give up or give it our all. Give it your all.