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

Remember this isn't a time to benefit, it's a time to show that you care.

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By Louise Jacobson


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You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

We've probably all heard this many times by now, but the world is in unprecedented times. We are experiencing a global pandemic, countries are shutting borders, and social distancing is becoming our daily norm. Did we ever think we would be here less than three months into this new decade that promised so much? The most important thing right now is that we all stay safe as individuals, and do our part to help curb COVID-19.

But what can entrepreneurs be doing PR-wise in this time of crisis and uncertainty? Many companies in the region have had to make budget cuts across all lines of business, so I hope this checklist at least helps someone who maybe doesn't have PR support right now.

1. Do a stakeholder sense check You're probably on this already, but if not talk to all your stakeholders involved with comms and decision making as soon you can. Garnering their collective viewpoints will ensure you have everyone's input from the start, and it will help shape your new strategy and make next steps easier.

2. Define objectives and strategy Your objective may be survival right now. Or it could be looking at attracting a new audience. Either way think strategically about opportunities that can make a difference, and align PR and comms to it, but whatever you do, do not benefit from this situation and people's misfortune. A phased PR strategy is a solid idea. What do you need to do right now? And what will you do when this is over? Because it will be at some point.

3. Re-evaluate your plans The comms plan you had last month, or even last week, is now defunct. Relook at all your plans now, get a new one in place, and keep refining it as often as you can. Things are changing all the time and you need to make sure you're adapting in all areas of marcomms.

4. Be human Your overall positioning and tone of voice should be one of safety, empathy, all delivered in a human way. Soften language, banish corporate jargon, and ensure sensitivity. Now more than ever, your audience wants to see and hear from human beings.

5. Showcase strong leadership You need to show this now more than ever. Ensure clarity, empathy, and strength via all communications. Have you spoken to all your clients and re-assured them? Are you checking in daily with team members working remotely? Could you look at some video content to convey your message in a more human way to inspire confidence with your stakeholders?

Related: How Managers Can Weather The Impact Of The Coronavirus Pandemic On Their Businesses

6. Preparation is key Ensure you have statements prepared for all possible scenarios you can think of. Have you prepared for an employee contracting COVID-19 and it escalating to media? Have you got social media Q&A's for customer concerns on hygiene? Handling this correctly is vital. This is where brand trust can be won and lost in an instant.

7. Keep communicating regularly Don't go quiet. Even if your business has been impacted, keep talking. Government directives are changing daily, and you have a duty of care to reassure people that you're complying with them and will keep them updated as things develop. Keep talking and listening to your audience and customer base, the beauty of social media is that you can have a two-way conversation.

8. Build creative content A content-led approach is a great strategy for your marcomms right now, and it can be very cost effective- all you really need is a decent smartphone and internet access. Remember this isn't a time to benefit, it's a time to show you care- e.g. if you're a management consultant, could you release some content on how organizations should be temporarily re-structuring their businesses, or give some practical tips on working from home and keeping employees motivated? Get creative, but in an empathetic and authentic way.

9. Give back We all need to help each other get through this, so what can your business do to make a difference? Can it donate money to charity? Could your manufacturing facility produce garments for those on the front line of COVID-19, or can you help with the distance learning movement? If you make a positive impact right now, you will generate brand affinity, and people will remember it. Whatever you do, please make sure it's within legal guidelines.

10. Stress on measurement and analysis This is still fundamental to ensuring what you're doing is working in the right way. Yes, the quantitative metrics are still important, but more important are the qualitative ones, bearing in mind it's all about humanisation of our activity right now. Looking at the comments on social media posts and getting feedback from stakeholders will ensure that you stay on track.

Stay safe, stay strong, and remember, this too shall pass.

Related: Here's What Your Business Should Focus On As It Navigates The Coronavirus Pandemic

Louise Jacobson

Managing Partner of Brazen MENA

Louise Jacobson is the Managing Partner of Brazen MENA, a MEPRA and PRCA MENA Small Consultancy of the year 2019 and 2020. She has 18 years of experience across all sectors of PR and has worked in Europe and The Middle East. Louise is a MEPRA Strategy Board member, Global Women in PR MENA member and industry awards judge.

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