Seven Steps For PR Professionals To Take In Times Of Crisis

To shape up when the going gets tough, here's a list of seven steps that PR and communications professionals can start taking right now.
Seven Steps For PR Professionals To Take In Times Of Crisis
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Digital Communications Lead - Middle East & Africa, Talkwalker
6 min read
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In times of crisis and uncertainty, we find ourselves asking a lot of questions about how to cope. Humans, by nature, seek comfort and order. So, to shape up when the going gets tough, here’s a list of seven steps that PR and communications professionals can start taking right now:

1/ IMPLEMENT (OR PUT TOGETHER) YOUR CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS PLAN

Ideally, you should have a crisis comms plan in place for your business or your clients. If not, it’s not too late to start putting one together using a plethora of useful templates available online and by following the below steps. Set up realtime alerts to monitor relevant mentions, news alerts, updates, or guidelines that your team and company should be aware of. Not only is this important to stay informed and shape your reactive communications strategy, but it will also help you with the following two steps.

2/ COMMUNICATE CLEARLY AND CONSISTENTLY WITH STAKEHOLDERS

Create safety and security through empathetic and consistent communication. Make sure you’re speaking to both your internal and external stakeholders as you navigate through changing times.

Internal stakeholders (employees) A successful company is built on its people, before anything else. Make sure you are communicating with them regularly, transparently, and swiftly.

External stakeholders (clients or investors) Again, be clear and transparent about the changes your business is inevitably undergoing. Update them as regularly as needed. Share concrete details about how this will impact them. Have your hours of availability changed? Are your offerings changing? Invariably, clients and investors will have changes on their side too, and being honest and forthcoming is the best way to navigate these changes to reach a middle ground.

Media Believe it or not, during times of crisis, the media doesn’t just want to cover the crisis. Diversity in news is always welcome and the media recognizes that their audience would appreciate positive news too. More on that below.

Related: Crisis Comms: A Four-Point Checklist For Effective Brand Communication Through The Coronavirus Outbreak

3/ REVISIT YOUR PLANNED CAMPAIGNS AND OUTREACH

Revisit any digital PR campaigns you had planned, and decide which of the three below categories they fit into:

Can be refocused in meaningful ways to be relevant today If you have a campaign that naturally lends itself to being re-focused to fit the current crisis situation, then you have yourself a plan. Don’t force relevancy if it doesn’t naturally exist, and don’t provide any misleading or sensational information.

Cannot be explicitly refocused, but can still be relevant today If your campaigns can’t be refocused, no problem. There are many journalists right now looking for ethical, positive stories to add variety to their news coverage. Just be mindful of remaining empathetic with the current situation.

Cannot be refocused, and is not relevant at all today For campaigns that simply don’t have a place right now, keep them on the backburner, and maybe you’ll even have time to refine them further, and prepare for an epic launch when the time allows for it.

4/ FIND WAYS TO ADD VALUE

This is not the time to upsell or take advantage of people’s needs. Rather, this is a time where you can put (actually meaningful) corporate social responsibility strategies into place, or simply showcase the human side of your brand. Helping others is one of the most selfish selfless acts available to us, and during times of crises, we all need to feel a little good about ourselves, and share some positivity! If there is a way to balance between helping out and serving your business needs, that’s lucky. If not, don’t force it. Prioritize empathy.

5/ STAY AGILE

Yes, your daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly plans and forecasts will have to change. So will your yearly ones. This is the time to practice what we preach (or what we write on our CVs at least) about being agile. Start thinking about ways you can adapt your strategy, and accept the fact that there are a lot of variables and moving pieces. Can you reallocate your events or offline media budgets to online activities that can benefit your business? This is not to say that you should overthink and worry about worst case scenarios- but just start putting some initial thoughts on paper. Having a tangible starting point can do wonders to relieve stress and anxiety. Focus on your short-term plans and goals too to make sure you come out of this as strongly as possible.

6/ FOCUS ON ONE THING YOU CAN GROW FOR THE BUSINESS

How many times have you pushed the deadline on a nice-to-have but not essential project? How many times did you wish you had more time to streamline tasks, improve strategies, embellish templates, expand media and influencer lists, etc.? Guess what? If your day-to-day work is slowing down, this could be the time to get these things done. This is also the right time to invest in your online offerings- enhancing user experience can be more important than ever right now.

7/ FOCUS ON ONE THING YOU CAN GROW FOR YOU

It’s easy to think that the time freed up by reduced commute and social obligations should amount to many ticks on a seemingly endless personal to-do-list. But we are quickly starting to see that the sheer novelty and scope of the current situation is taking a toll on our ability to focus and move forward. And that’s okay. Set a realistic and achievable goal of one thing you would like to improve or grow during this unique time, so you can allow yourself to later enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. It could be as simple as reading a book, or as exerting as following through with a personal project, or signing up to an online course. Brushing up on new industry research and trends is also a good way to fill up slow days, and can help you feel better equipped to hit the ground running once order is restored.

Related: A PR Checklist For Entrepreneurs Dealing With The COVID-19 Crisis

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