20 Mar 2020
iPhone with Instagram open showing coronavirus crisis message

How to do comms to show business continuity

Staying visible in a global crisis 

The headlines speak for themselves: coronavirus poses a serious risk to the UK economy; businesses are already going into administration; and there are fears the pandemic could cause a global recession. It’s likely that the business world – like our home lives – will need to find ways to adapt and to achieve continuity throughout uncertainty and a landscape that is changing day-to-day.  These times will undoubtedly have an impact on how we operate and behave long term. This is serious stuff so now is the time for resilience, agility and resourcefulness. People, it’s time to hone your hustle.

Thankfully, the UK is a resilient little island: businesses will fight to keep operating as normally as possible and, of course, there will still be work to be done. For most businesses, staying visible in a more isolated and remote world will be the key to survival. When customers are ready to start spending money – and they will – the companies that thrive will be the ones that have adapted to dominate the digital environment, and are leveraging all the tools at their disposal to stay current and at the forefront of their mind.

For those businesses that want (and need) to stay visible during this time of crisis, here are some pointers based on our many years of comms experience: obviously, for official advice on how your business should negotiate coronavirus, go to the Government website.

Just to clarify: this is not about capitalising on a global disaster to further your business. The first priority should always be public health and safety and respecting that this is a very dangerous situation for many people.

This advice is intended to help businesses think about what they can do to thrive, in spite of unavoidable changes to the way they need to operate.

Understood? Keep reading to find out more…


Issuing a statement to reassure clients

If you haven’t already, consider releasing a statement about your business’s course of action. Whether you’re closed, open, or working from home, it’s helpful and comforting to let customers and stakeholders know what you’re doing and that their business will not be interrupted.

Your messaging should provide reassurance and are doing your best to keep everyone safe. As well as posting this to the news section of your site and sharing on social, you may also consider sending this out to your mailing list if it’s really important to let people know (for example, if you’re cancelling an event). Do not send this to journalists: this is for your customers, partners, and potential visitors, only.

Of course, the situation is changing almost by the hour, so keep abreast of developments and be prepared to update or reissue this statement as needed.


Will the media want to hear from you?

In times of crisis, of course breaking news and analysis naturally dominates the media.

However, there has already been a shift: consumers and the media are recognising that excessive coverage of a threatening situation can be bad for mental health. People don’t want to be confined purely to coronavirus-related content, so less news-driven media publications are powering on, with most journalists still working, and certainly not all of them writing about the coronavirus. Trade and tech publications especially will continue to move forward according to their own publication agendas, so if you were thinking about whether to continue with PR activity, we are actually seeing more media opportunities than ever.

Remember that some editorial teams are small at the best of times. Should journalists become ill or have to look after kiddies, many publications (especially digital) will want to find ways to create enough content to keep readers satisfied. At times like this, they appreciate input in the form of well-written thought leadership content. Contributing articles is always valuable, as it allows you a greater degree of editorial control over the piece. However, remember they must not be self-promotional and should be both appropriate and exclusive for the chosen publication.

If your business is doing something unique in reaction to coronavirus (or any other crisis), it may be worth measuring and monitoring this, using your experiences to create a media-ready case study. For example, if you’re suspending fees for your platform, or paying staff extra to cover an increased energy bill when working from home, business and HR writers covering stories about how companies are negotiating this crisis are genuinely interested in hearing about how people are coping and demonstrating care and resilience. If you already have a case study prepared, you can pitch it as soon as you see a request for information. As previously mentioned, this must be serious and genuine: don’t use it as an opportunity for a PR stunt.


Content marketing in a crisis

With meetings cancelled and some employees unable to fulfil their usual work activities, you may find that team members have more time to do some writing. Content creation is often seen as a ‘nice to have’, with many businesses unable to commit to doing it. So, make the most of this opportunity!

Analyse what your customers are looking for, and create a full schedule of content that answers their needs. Google Keyword Planner, Answer the Public, and Also Asked are some tools that can help with this. If you generate a lot of content ideas, you needn’t post them all now: save some for when normal service has resumed for everyone.

Remember, this is all about being visible, and so having relevant and helpful content prepared will give you excuses to update the multitude of digital, non-face-to-face channels, that will still be active and useful to you in a time where no one can physically meet or shake hands.

Of course, content needn’t be written. If your business usually does a lot of face-to-face networking and public speaking, fill the gaps with podcasts, webinars, and video content. With plenty of people away from their normal working environments, we think there’ll be plenty of people on LinkedIn to take part in webinars and engage in some healthy debate.


Showing continuity in a crisis through social media

If you’re going to continue posting to your social media channels during a crisis (and we recommend you do in abundance), there are a few things to bear in mind.

The right tone of voice is essential. It’s fine to be positive, and reassure customers that it’s business as usual for your company. You may want to share photos from team members demonstrating how they’re adjusting to working from home. However, avoid making light of a serious situation. Be courteous, and have empathy for other people.

Social media has the power to restore our faith in humanity when you see lots of people rallying together during a difficult time.  It also provides important connectivity as we enter a time where some may be feeling isolated. If your business is doing something to support your peers or local community, share it online with pride. It may even be a good time to launch an online support network or social media community.   Be creative, be resourceful and use every amazing tech tool that you have at your disposal.


Use this as an opportunity to learn and share

We’re sure you already know your customers inside-out: their journey to purchase, and how they engage with your business going forward.

But, pay attention to how those journeys and interactions may change over the next few weeks and months. Human psychology is a flighty thing, and you might find that what inspires customers to purchase during a crisis is completely unexpected.  Perhaps people are choosing different products, or buying for different reasons. Keep track of this data, because – outside of being useful for your own insight – it could also make a very interesting business case study when things have calmed down.

You could also try keeping a diary based on how your business negotiates the crisis, and what you have learned. As well as providing valuable insight, this could also make an interesting PR story.


Keep calm, and carry on

We’re not trying to gloss over world events: they will have a devastating impact on people and businesses alike. But staying stagnant and invisible in the short term could be equally devastating for you in the long term. We are all uncertain. We are all fearful, in one way or another. But continuing with a rabbits-in-the-headlight approach when it comes to business will guarantee you even more pain. If your business is able to continue, even in a small way, to operate as usual, we hope you keep our comms advice in mind to help steer you through.

And if you are a startup… watch this space, as we have some advice specifically tailored for you coming soon!

Look after each other folks, and if you have any specific questions about what you should be doing at the moment, email us or tweet us @LuminousPR and we’ll make sure we help you get some answers.