It's good to talk

It's still good to talk

26/03/2020 15:45:04

I doubt there will be an organisation in the country in a position to run the PR campaign they had planned a month ago, perhaps even a week ago.

And while you might not be implementing the campaign you envisaged, a huge part of any business continuity plan is keeping in touch with the people who matter to your organisation. So much has changed, so quickly, and it’s time to rethink your communications plan. Here’s our advice on what to do in the short term.

Teams that Zoom together, stay together

Bring your human to workWith so many people working remotely which, for a lot of SMEs hasn’t previously been the norm, internal communication has moved in a new direction. I defy you to scroll through your LinkedIn feed without seeing screen shots of the Microsoft Teams or Zoom meetings that have very quickly become part of everyday life.

I suspect that many people who aren’t used to home working and are no longer in an office environment will have, at some point in the last two weeks, felt out of the loop. A passing comment across the office, a shared joke: it’s easy to lose those things when your team is widely dispersed and adapting to new ways of working.

Full time remote working is a big shift and requires a communications rethink. Our weekly team meeting is now daily ‘elevenses’, checking in with each other to keep client campaigns moving, and to stay sane as we all adapt to balancing home working with childcare priorities and the inevitable interruptions and distractions they bring. Read our thoughts on internal comms and remote working.

Don’t keep people in the dark


Many businesses have spent the last two weeks looking inwards: heads down, implementing (and, in some cases, creating) business continuity plans, testing systems and moving some or all their teams to remote working. And that’s completely understandable.

But you can’t afford to stop looking outwards. You might be putting everything in place to ensure business continuity, but are you telling your customers about it? Do they know what you are doing to carry on delivering the products or services they rely on?

Whether it’s to clarify, reassure or advise; and be it via the media, online, social platforms or more direct or one-to-one communications, the message is the same: keep talking. Get your message clear and use the most effective ways of reaching the people who matter.

Revisit, review and re-plan


Looking at the bigger PR picture, you’re going to need to revisit your communications plan, review the activity and messaging and think about whether they are still relevant and appropriate in the current circumstances.

It may feel as though all everyone is talking about is Covid-19, but media outlets are keen to balance the news agenda. Earlier this week, Yorkshire Post business editor Mark Casci took to Twitter to challenge the region’s businesses to supply him with “as much non-coronavirus-related news” as possible. The same is true for trade media, who are keen to support their industry and have been actively seeking good content.

And you might think talking about business success at a time of national crisis is inappropriate, but there is an appetite for positive news, too. People are looking for balance. Without question, announcing record profits if you are furloughing staff is in poor taste, but celebrating successes is important for morale in your business and in the wider business community.

Share good news


If your organisation is supporting others in your local area or beyond, let people know. At a local level, we’ve helped a Doncaster business let people know about their free soap for the elderly and vulnerable to help combat local shortages. In York, firms have teamed up to offer a daily ‘People Panel’ to bring businesses together for support and guidance.

At a national level, many breweries and gin distilleries have switched from beer and gin to hand sanitiser production to help alleviate shortages. During difficult times we look to people and organisations we trust for guidance and solutions. If you are offering that support, communication is key to make sure the right people know about it and can benefit.

Social media


Your top priority with social media right now should be to review any scheduled posts considering the current situation. Are they still relevant? Appropriate? Now, more than ever, businesses need to be responsive to a rapidly changing situation, and posts that seemed like a good idea even just a week ago may come across as insensitive or tone deaf in the current circumstances.

From there, review your entire social media content plan in line with your updated communications strategy. It’s important to stay visible as a business, but only when the time is right and when you have formulated a clear and sensible plan.

Think beyond the crisis


For a lot of SMEs, the idea of thinking beyond the next 24 hours feels challenging. ‘This too shall pass’ is a phrase many of us have been taking comfort from in recent weeks. And when it does pass, which it will, how well positioned will your business be to get back on track?

In a recent PRWeek survey, 71.4% of senior in-house comms and public affairs leaders said their organisation was not planning to reduce PR budgets due to the pandemic. According to one respondent, PR is key to ‘managing reputational management issues.’. Another said, ‘We still have to carry on with business once this pandemic is behind us. It would be very short-sighted to start cutting budgets at this time, unless companies expect to cease trading.’

If it is possible to maintain communication flow, even if it has to be at a lower level in the short term, it will stand your business in better stead to get back to full capacity when this is all behind us.

The Partners team is working remotely to support our clients and help them review communications plans, keep customers, staff and stakeholders informed and updated, and make sure their businesses are best placed to bounce back when this storm has passed.

If you're unsure of how to manage communications at this challenging time, we’d be happy to help. We are, after all, in this together.

Get in touch