The coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of millions, including PR and marketing professionals. With group gatherings banned and employees working from home, most people are spending more time online, more time on social media and more time reading news online.
Many businesses adapted quickly to the crisis. Gyms that shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus offer online workout classes. Restaurants and grocery stores offer curbside take out or free delivery. Medical professionals offer online consultations. Digital PR and marketing pros can also seize opportunities for their organizations by heeding these recommendations.
Re-evaluate social media posting schedules. Conventional wisdom recommends posting B2B content during the day while people are at work. But employees working from home often work earlier or later hours to juggle child care and household responsibilities. Try posting at different times during the day and analyze results with social media analytics.
Post in real time. To reach audiences no longer working regular schedules, pause messages now scheduled in advance. Instead, delve into social media conversations and trending topics and post in real time. “Rely on the social listening tools and skills you’ve developed and use the insights to inform content,” urges digital marketing strategist Lauren Teague at Convince & Convert. “Then post natively once you have a chance to tailor a message to fit that moment in time.”
Show empathy. Empathy distinguishes stellar PR and marketing from ordinary communications. Organizations perceived as empathic gain respect and attract loyal customers. Empathy is critical at a time like this when people feel more vulnerable. Many brands show empathy by offering free or discounted products and services. Some banks are waiving overdraft fees.
“The nuances of brand voice are more delicate than ever. Brands that use this time to be commercially exploitative will not fare well,” writes Janet Balis, a principal with Ernst & Young LLP, in Harvard Business Review.
Follow the example of Guinness, which shifted its messaging from pubs and celebrations around St. Patrick’s Day to a message of longevity and wellbeing, Balis advises.
Track trends to better understand audiences. Measure sentiment and consumption trends regularly to better adapt messaging, recommends Balis. Closely observe conversations across social-media platforms, community sites, and e-commerce product pages to spot opportunities and looming crises more quickly. “Companies should consider quickly building dashboards with this kind of data to fuel the right decisions,” she advises.
Seek positive reviews. Positive online reviews add SEO value and enhance the brand’s reputation. Online reputation management is as important as ever during the coronavirus epidemic, says Brandon George, demand generation content manager at Thrive Internet Marketing Agency. “To provide the right service or product for people during a stressful time like this — when they need it most during this COVID-19 pandemic — is likely to be rewarded with a glowing review,” George states.
Don’t panic. Don’t be like people who stuffed their closets with toilet paper. Knee-jerk reactions rarely work well in digital PR or marketing. Instead of panicking, carefully analyze metrics and all available data before reaching a decision.
Refute fake news and information. Monitor social media and online news to identify mentions of your brand and products associated with COVID-19 and debunk fake news and misinformation. Creating a media monitoring dashboard dedicated to the coronavirus can improve the organization’s media monitoring and measurement. Even if fake news is unrelated to their brands or products, PR and marketing personnel can still expose the misinformation by posting the facts on their organizations’ accounts in addition to their personal profiles.
Pitch to the media — judiciously. A media pitch related to the coronavirus can gain extensive media attention, but trying to force a connection will backfire and annoy journalists.
Stay on course. Research shows that businesses that maintain healthy PR and marketing spending will win customer loyalty over the long term. Despite the economic difficulties and slashed marketing budgets, those who invest in PR and marketing now can seize market share.
Bottom Line: COVID-19 has changed the world for many people. PR and marketing pros who adjust to the new environment will be better positioned to promote their organizations and bolster their brand’s reputation over the long term.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.