Upcoming Challenges For Public Relations Pros in a Post COVID-19 World.
Almost all 50 states in the US are now in the "reopening" phase of the COVID-19 response plan. In the past few months, PR pros have been working nonstop making sure external and internal messaging is being well communicated to their audience and employees while ensuring that health and safety is their first priority.
Here are a few challenges that are certain to come up and how to overcome them.
Uncertain Economic Recovery
There's no way to sugar coat it, the economy is in a rough spot at the moment. Unemployment is over 14%, businesses are closing and economists are predicting a long time before we see a full economic recovery. A struggling economy means not many people are spending money and many businesses are going to struggle to pay their bills and meet payroll.
You'll need to lower your company's or client's expectations for the year and be very cautious with the messaging you're sending out. People aren't afraid to rant on social media and call you out for looking greedy and not caring, so plan your strategic communications wisely as you'll need to remind your client, employer and yourself that not everyone is in a good position to go out and/or spend money like they were before the pandemic.
My favorite kind of communications is when a brand can make an impact without being so pushy on buying their product or service. One company that did it right was Jersey Mike's sandwich shop. First, they ran an ad with their CEO mentioning how they're doing everything they can to give back to the community and those who are working in the front lines during tough times. Then, they ran another ad offering to give 20% of all sales to Feeding America. Lastly, they ran a final ad and thanked everyone who participated in their giving back efforts while mentioning how they were able to provide over 21 million meals to Feeding America. They were able to successfully raise their brand's profile, showcase their commitment to giving back and generate sales all at the same time.
Doing More With Less
Another challenge that comes with a bad economy is budget cuts and layoffs that lead to employees picking up more responsibilities with less resources available. If you work in a job that includes large spending budget (marketing, travel, office supplies, etc), work like your budget is $0. Now is the time to innovate and come up with cost saving ideas that will generate positive results. Every single dollar is critical for your employer or client to survive during these tough times and if you really need to spend, it better be for important and useful things that will help grow the business.
Getting People to Adapt to Changes
We've already seen a lot of changes in the way we work and live our lives. Some companies are closing offices and enacting a permanent "work from home" policy, restaurants are enforcing social distancing and more consumers are grocery shopping online. The biggest challenge to change is adapting to change and for businesses, getting your customers and employees to follow your request to change, will certainly be no different.
I currently work for a nonprofit and my job involves promoting charitable events and the latest health statistics. My audience for this kind of work is a bit older than me and not as tech savvy than a younger audience that attends Coachella and gets their news on social media. Everyone is being asked to innovate and "think outside the box" when it comes to bringing new ideas to the table, which is why we're seeing businesses get creative with their ideas on safety and health.
Asking an audience to change is never easy but it's important to remember to "know your audience", be patient and come up with language that they can understand when it comes to asking them to adapt to our new innovative ideas.
Helping Your Client or Employer Avoid Getting Sued
I'm not a lawyer but I have many friends who are and according to the Washington Post, they're going to be very busy in the coming years. Most COVID-19 related lawsuits that are getting filed are for liability and lack of preparedness. Now that we're getting into the reopening phase, PR pros need to help create language for their client or employer that will help avoid a lawsuit.
If you work at a business that allows crowds, then you need to realize that if someone gets sick and/or dies, they can sue your business. Always consult with a lawyer but avoiding a lawsuit could be as simple as the sign below that was used at a Golden State Warriors game.
Also remember to encourage everyone to practice social distancing and to stay home if they're sick.