Organisations which already had PR assets in place would have been in a better position to communicate during COVID-19.
These PR assets could include:
- A good understanding of their key stakeholders and publics (customers/audiences)
- Established channels of communication (enewsletter template and database, meeting schedule, regular events, well maintained website)
- Social media channels (and social media savvy)
- Positive relationships with relevant news media
- And a PR plan. Some organisations may even have an issues and crisis management plan.
A PR plan is a roadmap to steer your communications, and that’s particularly important during an uncertain time like the COVID-19 era.
This is an era where your business may be flailing; your staff and customers are unsure what’s happening next; you may need to change your business model and services swiftly; you may need to collaborate and perhaps partner with other organisations to survive – or indeed, support peer businesses to help them survive.
All of this means, of course, that relationships are key. A good PR plan identifies the relationships that are important to you and nurtures them over time. (It’s not called public relations for nothing).
Many businesses do not have a PR plan; indeed they’re not aware of the difference between public relations and marketing and advertising. [Read: A Snapshot of Public Relations]
That doesn’t mean they can’t create a PR plan and immediately benefit from what it brings to an organisation.
But of course, the ideal scenario is that there is already a PR plan in place. That means you, your staff and your audiences are connected and communicating regularly already. There’s no steep hill to climb in terms of introducing new comms methods – or indeed, introducing yourself to customers who may not understand who you are.
I hope this is a time when a lot of organisations understand the value of communications planning, and any new plans they’ve created now become the template for them to continue to manage positive relationships with the people who matter to them.
It’s a tough lesson to learn during a crisis, but once a plan is in place it’s an easier proposition to keep refining it, learning, and maintaining that all-important two way communication with your stakeholders.
You can do the first steps yourself, with a pen and notepad. List your:
- Key audiences / people who matter to the business
- Key message: what do you want to say to those people? What do they need to know?
- Communication channels: how are you going to tell them? Via what means?
Don’t have a plan yet? Too busy? Make time for it, because a PR plan will save you time (and possibly heartache) over the mid to longer term.