Navigating public relations during the coronavirus pandemic.

For the past several weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has dominated local, national, and international news as people are desperate for information and updates on the virus and how it is affecting daily life. Where a traditional news cycle might last a couple of days, we can expect attention to remain on COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.

Needless to say, it’s a really weird and unprecedented time in public relations. With every ounce of grace we can muster, PR practitioners and media alike are trying to navigate this new normal as much of the traditional media landscape has been upended.

Statements have been written and emails have been sent to key stakeholders, but what now? Here are a few basic pointers to keep in mind as you navigate the public relations waters during this global health crisis.

 

Revisit all your plans.

Most PR practitioners are planners. We pride ourselves on staying nimble, but strategies and plans are usually set weeks, or even months, in advance. With media coverage and social media conversations likely monopolized by coronavirus-related news and content through the spring and into the summer months, it’s time to reevaluate *everything* through the lens of COVID-19.

Revisit your PR and social media plans to ensure upcoming initiatives and content are still appropriate or won’t fall on deaf ears. Is your upcoming product announcement something that can wait? Do your drafted social posts now sound a little tone-deaf given the current state of affairs? Can your live event be transformed into a digital event, or should it be postponed or tabled for next year?

Not everything needs to be scrapped – in fact, for certain industries, some of your communications may be timelier than ever. But regardless of your industry, ensure everything is gut-checked for insensitivity or risk.

 

It’s more important than ever to do your homework.

Researching a media outlet and reporter before you pitch a story is Media Relations 101. This basic principle has never been more important than it is now, particularly with the majority of local and mainstream media coverage dedicated to COVID-19 and coronavirus-adjacent news.

A tried and true “friendly” who has always covered your client’s industry may have transitioned to only covering COVID-19. Your local news station that has always welcomed fun product news or a lighter human-interest story perhaps hasn’t covered anything like that in weeks.

Do your research. Read the room.

 

Get comfortable with Zoom.

Most TV stations are shutting down in-studio interviews and live remotes in the name of social distancing. Instead, they are turning to apps like Zoom and Skype to interview sources.

Ensure your spokespeople have a Skype or Zoom account ready to go. It might even be a good idea to run practice interviews to make sure they are comfortable with this format.

Stay safe and healthy out there, folks!

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