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Communicating while the doors are closed – your audience is waiting

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We are in strange times. If you had told me at the beginning of January that by the end of March I would be working from home, having conference calls on Zoom and meetings on Microsoft teams I would have thought you’d gone mad.

But we are. One journalist I spoke with earlier this week pointed out that the absurdity of it all is not just you as an individual working from home, but the fact that everyone is. The client, the agency, the journalist. We are all communicating from the comfort of our homes, whether that be your home office, conservatory or kitchen.

The biggest change through it all, however, is not the remote working, it’s the change in the industry. There has been a huge shift in the way that we consume news and the way that the media is displaying it. Almost every story has the underlying theme of (whispers) coronavirus.

The Public Relations Communications Association (PRCA) released a statement on March 23rd which stated:
“Many of our members have a frontline role in ensuring that the public have access to timely, reliable and transparent news. To those in frontline roles – your work will play a key role in our national effort to educate the public and encourage behaviour change to promote public health in the coming weeks and months.”

As an industry we must remain aware of the constantly changing situation and adapt messages as such. There have already been far too many instances of brands appearing ‘tone deaf’, ignoring the situation at hand.

That being said, not only do the public want to know what companies are doing, how they’re doing it and how they’re looking after their staff, they’re also looking for content that doesn’t revolve around (sorry) Covid-19.

Local as well as national media outlets are adapting to ensure that their readers have access to both relevant updates and positive stories, the role of the media is, of course, to entertain as well as inform. Many newspapers and magazine are uploading their print editions online for free, posting more regularly on social media or delivering directly to people’s doors.

With the media showing such a flexible response, it’s now more than ever that brands should follow suit in keeping their audience updated, not just on how they are handling the situation, but with good news stories too.

Over the past week, speaking with journalists across the length and breadth of the country, one thing is for certain, the media want more than just your standard crisis update. They are looking for stories to bring balance and positivity to their publications and websites. With that in mind, this is a key time for businesses to strengthen their public image through positive messaging.

There are three pieces of advice I can give to any agency, internal comms team or small business running their own image: Keep informed, be flexible, stay in touch.

Keep informed

Watch the Government’s daily press conference and then watch the breakdown after. Sit and think about how any updates will affect yours or your clients’ businesses and then look at the ways you can change and adapt your messaging around that.

Be flexible

The world is not the same as it was a month ago, it’s barely the same as last week and it is vital that you as a brand are able to adapt with each changing circumstance. Make sure that your messaging is in context to the latest Government advice and think about positive ways you can make the most of any changes such as staff working from home.

Stay in touch

Your customers want to know what’s happening. Make sure you are communicating with them regularly, not just with business updates, but with good news stories too. If you are able to donate or help out in the key worker process, let your audience know! People are searching for good news and it will not only help with the current situation, but support your brand image and purpose.

Like I said, we are in strange and unprecedented times. Stay safe and stay informed. If you have any concerns visit the links below:

PR support and resources: PRCA
NHS advice: NHS online
Government guidance for businesses: UK Government online

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