Brands are currently walking a fine line between wanting to get their messaging out without coming across as tone deaf or insensitive. There is a lot of uncertainty around whether PR is advisable in the current climate, or how much PR should brands be doing right now without ambulance chasing? While some may think it’s safer to mute themselves rather than to say the wrong thing, adopting such risk adverse stance will not serve the company or their audiences in the long run.
Just because we are currently facing a global crisis, doesn’t necessarily mean brands should adopt a crisis comms approach to their PR efforts. Instead, what they need is more effective communications in times of crisis to better connect with audiences. Consumers are wrapped up in their own lives right now and the way they look at brands is changing. They crave authenticity and purpose-led communication that goes beyond profit. They want to be associated with brands that are cognizant and in tune with their struggles and challenges and are looking to brands to make their lives better in some way. If your brand chooses to take the risk adverse route and stay quiet, then you’re not showing up for your customers in tough times. And when things get better, chances are they won’t be there for your brand in great times either.
As such the kind of stories you tell as a brand, is a reflection of your corporate values and where your brand’s heart is right now. If you want to adapt your PR and comms strategies to better suit the current environment, focus on your audience, not your brand. The companies that will be remembered once the dust settles are the ones that are crafting their messaging in a consumer-first way, acknowledging the challenges people are facing while they’re in survival mode. Some brands are reticent to talk about COVID-19 in fear of being seen as opportunistic, which, if done in a clumsy way, will definitely lead to that.
In a nutshell, if you’re pursuing PR solely for the purpose of pushing out your brand, don’t do it. It’s not the time for it and you will end up damaging your brand more than anything. Our advice is to leverage storytelling to put possibilities back into the hands of customers and meet their needs for simple comforts that will help them see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Now is the time to pursue PR efforts to connect with your audience and become an agent of empathy. Customers need to feel that brands are listening to their needs and that they are responding in an authentic, helpful and selfless manner.
People are panicking about their jobs, their kids, their parents, and their own health. So irrespective of your own feelings, your messaging needs to be tailored to such concerns.