Within just a few months, Coronavirus (more specifically referred to as Covid-19) has dominated the world; infecting people, putting business and our economy on hold, cutting back our face to face interactions & communication, and ultimately testing our strength and perseverance.
With this drastic change in society, both people and businesses have had to find and navigate a new norm, altering the ways in which we live and work. Covid-19 has impacted hundreds of thousands of working people, some of which have faced permanent or temporary layoffs, salary cuts, limited working hours, and more.
It’s easy to find ourselves overwhelmed by change, and many business leaders and CEOs are facing difficult decisions on how to position themselves in an incredibly different marketplace than that of a few months ago. As a Public Relations agency, we’ve been finding ways to adjust to the new ways of life and business internally for our clients, and we wanted to share what we’ve found to be some best practices for navigating a consumer brand through these trying times.
General PR Strategy: Re-Define Goals
To begin, we believe it’s not about halting business altogether but rather finding ways to pivot re-define the direction of both company management and daily operations. The virus is real for businesses, its employees, and its customers, so it’s important to acknowledge the situation and establish the right and wrong ways to do business for your brand during this time.
It’s no surprise that businesses have been becoming more digital, and now we’ve been pushed to test our digital communication more than ever before. It’s most important to find ways to keep things relevant and up to date, innovative & creative, and socially conscious in brand messaging and communication strategies. In PR and marketing specifically, there are a few areas of our day to day business that we think are most important to highlight and act on: social media, media outreach/pitching, out-of-the-box creativity, and business relations (both client facing & internal).
Here are some of our specific PR strategies & tactics to utilize in the weeks to come.
As mentioned, digital is key. While it’s a space that has grown dramatically over the last few years, it’s more present than ever in our current climate. Waiting out periods of self-quarantine, people are turning to social media, looking for sources of entertainment, news, and guidance, which is why it’s important for brands to focus on social media as a key area of business communication.
- Issue a statement on social media: From a brand perspective, once you’ve defined your goals internally, you should issue a statement publicly through your social media pages, website, or other forms of communication. It should be sincere, authentic, and in-line with your brand as you want to both acknowledge your understanding of how this virus is impacting the world and business, but also highlight how your particular brand is going to respond to this global pandemic. We recommend seeking the advice of your PR/Marketing agency as well as your employees.
- Avoid virtue signaling: The key with this message is to make sure you avoid virtue signaling – when you express your values in a long heartfelt-type statement but don’t follow up with any action. The first way to ensure this would be to make sure your social media doesn’t have any copy and content that implies (directly or indirectly) going outside, socializing in close proximity, etc. Instead, to remain sensitive, you’ll want to adjust your content calendar to reflect the type of content your audience is most likely to engage with during this time. You can gage this by simply reaching out to your audience and asking them what they wish to see during this period (this could be an in-feed post with comments below or an IG Story with polls and DMs).
- Influencer Marketing: Most brands are struggling to create their own custom branded content. We find that working with influencers is a great solution! Influencer marketing can aid in quality content creation and expose your brand to a new audience. Assuming influencers can have products sent to their homes, most influencers are still looking to keep up business as usual (especially as business is slow in general). They have an already-established relationship with their own audience that are still tuning into their feeds, making this a great platform to share new & relevant content.
Once you feel like you have the go-ahead from your audience and your consumers to post regular content, focus on posting and boosting products that can be helpful at this time. For example, if you’re a lifestyle brand, you should highlight your loungewear or headphones which are more relevant now than, say, party dresses, footwear, or outerwear.
Media Outreach & Pitching
From a media standpoint, there’s been a lot mixed messaging and back & forth on what to do and what not to do during this pandemic. Some media outlets want to only publish stories surrounding Coronavirus and the effects of Covid-19 on our society. However, other media outlets and editors are looking to keep their articles as normal as possible, in some cases, searching for more lighthearted, upbeat, and good news.
Don’t be afraid to reach out:
We recommend reaching out to journalists first to gage their take on the types of stories they want to be pitched at this time. In your initial outreach, make sure to acknowledge these crazy times, and check in to see that the editors are staying safe and healthy. Do NOT pitch outside normal working hours – remember that sensitivity and awareness is key.
Separate the publications and editors who still want “normal/regular” coverage and those who don’t. It’s helpful to make a list to keep track and pitch according to your findings. If possible, also make note of people who want Coronavirus-related angles in their stories, and those who want it virus-free, so to speak. Every editor and publication differs in how they want to go about storytelling right now.
Now it’s time to pitch! If you’re representing a fashion or beauty brand, and you’ve been given the go-ahead to pitch your normal content with a Covid-19 angle, this could be something like “Best Skincare Routines/Products for Working From Home” to “Best Smartwatches for your At Home Workouts”. Otherwise, if interest is indicated, you can continue to share Spring fashion trends, hair products for Spring weather, etc. All in all, you don’t want to come across tone-deaf in your outreach to the media, and going forward with pitching, you still want to remain conscious of our social environment. You don’t want to come off as opportunistic in what you’re sharing and how you’re sharing with the media.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen the fashion industry in particular, take a big hit. Factories aren’t producing products, consumers aren’t shopping for it, etc. We’ve seen Fashion Week in the summer, fashion award shows, music festivals, and more cancelled for the foreseeable future, as well as mega-fashion retailers like Macy’s and Neiman Marcus putting many of their employees on furlough. With a sense of doubt, sadness, and loss, we think this is actually a huge moment for the fashion industry to turn around and make some much needed changes, starting creatively.
THINKING OUT OF THE BOX:
We need to find innovative ways to tell these fashion stories in a new light, not just through traditional media and social media, but also through events. We don’t think it’s necessary to completely cancel fashion shows and postpone product launches. We see musicians taking to their Instagram accounts to give us live performances, we see trainers giving out free or discounted at-home workout classes; where can the fashion industry come into play here? Is it a virtual fashion show, is it hosting an IG-TV show on how to wear a brand’s upcoming collection? Maybe it’s an online tutorial of how to clean out your closet for Summer, or how to organize it for more effective use? If you’re a beauty brand, you could host a social media panel discussion with a dermatologist and a brand representative to talk about products, skincare routines, etc.
It’s all about keeping people entertained, informed, and present. PR and Marketing agencies need to brainstorm with their brands and find ways to deliver new messaging and communication strategies from a creative standpoint. Ultimately, we feel that these circumstances brought on by Covid-19 are going to cause innovation, and change the way we do business going forward, especially in the fashion industry. Whether it’s from finding virtual solutions that minimize the waste of large runway or trade shows, to learning how to simply be more efficient with limited resources & human contact, this could end up having a positive long-term impact on the industry as a whole.
Finally, we come to our business standpoint. People want to hear from brands as to how they’re not only doing business, but how they’re treating employees, how they’re supporting their communities, and from a PR & Marketing perspective, how they’re going to continue to communicate with the consumer.
Our motto is: OVER COMMUNICATE! There is no time like the present to be as transparent as possible. We recommend to have some sort of webpage or call out on your website on how your company is responding to Coronavirus. We also recommend they link to reliable sources like the CDC on either their website or social media so consumers have immediate access to these resources. If possible, we also recommend periodic call-outs on social media highlighting an employee of the month, an uplifting company moment (whether that’s current or from the past), or goals the brand has in the coming months. Keep your audience and consumers informed! From a give-back perspective (and if your company has the resources), we encourage making face masks & other medical supplies, donating relevant and useful goods to shelters, or offering a monetary donation to hospitals or other organizations & nonprofits during this time.
What are you doing?
What are you doing internally to boost morale and keep a positive, productive work environment both internally and externally? We suggest weekly team calls, video conferencing with clients, being accessible at all times to both clients and teammates, hosting weekly check-ins with clients, digital desksides if editors are interested, and client and/or team virtual happy hours and hangouts at the end of the week. Ideally, you want to keep communication and contact feeling as real as possible during this time. Here at the AMP3 team, we strive to stay in touch not just with our clients, but each other as well – it’s equally as important!
Throughout all of this, we encourage you to stay strong & positive and continue to appropriately push forward, while being aware and conscious of our current environment during these crazy and uncertain times. After all, we’re all in this together.
Want to learn more about what we do? Curious about working with us? Have any burning questions you simply need to ask? Get in touch with us and we will get back with you as soon as we can.
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