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Public Relations in a Pandemic Here are three ways to protect your reputation, serve your customers and promote your brand.

By Deborah A. Geiger

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The world hasn't seen anything like COVID-19 in a long time, if ever. The current pandemic that will cost U.S. businesses billions and, according to experts, could last as long as 18 months. Business owners need a long-term solution to remain operational, protect their customers and staff and keep the bottom line strong.

But at a time when everyone is concerned about health and safety, business-as-usual sales and marketing tactics can come across as tone-deaf and ineffective. At the same time, we need to build positive exposure and generate new leads and sales, even during a difficult moment, in order to keep our businesses profitable. Here are three tips any small-business owner or entrepreneur may implement in order to help those who need it, improve their brand reputation and generate new leads.

Related: 65 Free Tools to Help You Through the Coronavirus Pandemic

Provide Audience Value

Providing something valuable to your audience is the first way to simultaneously help people while promoting your services. Create a mini-course, host a Q&A or even extend a simple invitation to contact you for help. One recruiter I know is offering a free resume workshop and even individual resume reviews for her LinkedIn connections. A prominent personal-finance expert is offering a series of evening "fireside chats" on money and motivation via Instagram. These tactics cost the moderators nothing, yet provide value to those in need of help while showcasing their skills and abilities.

Solve a Problem

What problems are impeding your business and customers? If you're a real estate broker, showing homes to customers may not be an option during a pandemic, but helping clients to secure bank financing, legal counsel and even a moving company can happen now. If you're an entrepreneur, you can start solving problems like issues with a product or service, fixing a bad website, a much-needed rebranding or lack of PR or marketing. Help clients solve problems while doing the things you've been putting off as well.

Create Future Content

Provide your readers and customers with actionable solutions to their problems, and if you are a good enough writer, you may be able to crank out several months' worth of content in a short period of focused time. This might include launching a newsletter, blog, podcast or even simply creating a series of smart social media posts. If you can offer something complimentary, such as a free sample, class, lesson or introductory consultation, do so. Set up your social media accounts if you haven't already, and if you don't have a newsletter list, use LinkedIn and your email archive to find target email addresses (but always ask them first).

Related: Taking Coronavirus Uncertainty Head-On

In a time of crisis, it's all about human connection and meaning over the transactional. Public relations is an important function, but it has to be authentic to work effectively. While many businesses and entrepreneurs wait for the phone to ring, a PR consultant can proactively engage with journalists, ensure positive and influential media coverage for you and your business and handle content creation. Whether you do it yourself or enlist help, you'll need to ensure it gets done in order to survive.

Deborah A. Geiger

CEO of Geiger Communications, Inc.

I help people and companies increase visibility with PR.

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