Connecting in the Time of Coronavirus: Soundbites, Resources & How to Help

Another week has passed by in the new reality. It’s been a rollercoaster, as it will likely continue to be, as we try to adapt our businesses and lives. We hosted our first ever digital meet-up (if you missed it, the recap and recording can be found here), which provided a lot of reassurance. We knew that our industry had many of the most creative problem-solvers, but we've been so impressed hearing about how our community is adapting to stay productive, and be a shining light and resource for their teams and clients.

We want to be a resource to you and would like to hear what would be most helpful during the coming weeks. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and tell us what would help – we will gladly do anything we can via this platform. On that note, we're further offering our support through empowering soundbites, informative and inspiring resources, plus a few ways you can offer help right now.  

To start, we're sharing member insights and advice on topics spanning... 

Events:

Melissa Rosenfield, Founder, IFP Communications/This Vibe Life

"We are encouraging everyone to move forward and make plans for summer and fall because we are optimistic that we will all be able to gather again soon. We are continuing to move forward with as much ‘business as usual’ as we can and our industry should too, because editors need content, brands need to make money and stay open and people need something to take their minds off of the constant flow of information. We are going to continue to be a support for our clients, projects, brands, etc and our fellow PRs.”

Heather Barbod, Founder, Elemental Marketing

For my clients, since a lot of the trade shows are canceled and those are important for them in terms of sales, etc., we've transitioned everything to video conference meetings, phone meetings and, in some cases, virtual seminars. One of my clients is a sustainable aquaculture brand, and they're leading the charge to gather the seafood community in a "No Show Fish Show" since the largest seafood expo in the country was recently canceled. They're activating social networks and video conferencing, etc., in lieu of the indefinitely postponed show.

It's such a safety net for us to have technology in place that we can utilize so readily, so pivoting is just a matter of coordination of schedules and tech tools rather than a huge undertaking with multiple strategy sessions. Although there is so much uncertainty, I think we can also recognize that we have the power to not be paralized by fear, and action into new ways of working that most of us use often anyway :)" 

Community:

Amy Brownstein, Founder, PRStudio USA

"These are unprecedented times, and anyone younger than 40 is having a very different reaction than the ones over 40. Smaller, younger and less experienced businesses need positive emotional support and mentorship to help them get through this. This is about using our resources and experience to truly effect change in this world and if we as a group come together, we can do it.” 

Victoria Hood, Founder, Pamplemousse PR

"It is important to stress that media still want to hear from us, and that we have to support the online outlets and online businesses."

Influencer Marketing:

Jess Hunichen & Emily Ward, Co-Founders, Shine Influencers

"Surprisingly, we are seeing more influencer marketing programs being adapted or delayed rather than being cancelled entirely. Brands are working with our team and Influencers to strategize ways that the goals of the program can still be achieved, whether or not the execution moves forward as originally planned. 

One of the key strengths of the influencer relations category is how reactive and adaptable it can be. Brands are not committed to the content in the same way as a billboard or print advertisement that cannot be changed without significant costs, or to a television commercial that took weeks to shoot and edit. Influencer content can change quickly to address what is important to the talent’s audience on that day. 

Once the severity of COVID-19 has passed, brands will be looking to influencers to build back trust with their consumers that the activities they regularly engage in can be enjoyed again. This will be particularly relevant for the industries hit the hardest - tourism, hospitality and mass entertainment. With almost two out of three consumers saying that they trust influencers over brands, the influencer voice is going to be paramount in helping consumers find their way back to normality. What we know is that consumers will be spending more time on socials with their usual sources of entertainment being temporarily unavailable. While we collectively wait for the virus to be contained, progressive brands are engaging the influencer community to become a part of the conversation to help fulfill the public’s need for education, resources and entertainment.”

The Travel Industry:

Alexandra Avila, Co-Founder, Spherical PR

"Spherical PR works strictly with luxury travel brands, who started to feel the first effects of COVID-19 in the new year with a decline in business from the Asia markets. The travel restrictions worldwide brought essentially all leisure travel to a halt, which became the straw that broke the camel's back. Hotels received record breaking cancellations, while new business came to a standstill. At Spherical PR we are advising clients to use this time to focus on their social media platforms, while many users are quarantined, and looking for distractions. Sharing armchair travel content and engaging with your audience more intimately will better prepare them to rebound faster. Once travel resumes to some normalcy, every travel supplier will be coming out of the gates, creating a very saturated market. The brands that will have a strong social relationship with their clients will have the upperhand.

Additionally, while the travel books are putting out a mix of COVID-19 news and feel good stories, editors are asking for continued pitches and patience. While the call to action won't be to travel now, coverage has a positive impact on a brand's SEO and organic traffic. And while marketing budgets will be cut, especially for paid search, this can help maintain your brand's search ranking and continue to drive traffic."

Crisis Communications:

Amy Rossetti, Founder, Rossetti PR

"In a crisis, communication is key; these are three tactics that belong in any crisis: 

1. Keep it thoughtful and lead with compassion. While the bottom line is always a concern in business, people need to know that their leaders see beyond that. ⠀

2. Get a third party’s perspective. By bringing in a fresh set of eyes, you’ll improve your chances of creating a message that resonates with more people. ⠀

3. Maintain communication. It’s okay to not have all the answers initially, but it’s important to keep people informed. Consistent communication can help assuage fears and reduce the spread of misinformation."

Alison Seibert, Founder, The James Collective 

"Every company is currently having to deal with crisis communications, many for the first time. Communications in a time of crisis should be clear, thoughtful and proactive, ideally crafted by someone with an understanding of your message and what you need to communicate. If you need to inform your employees, buyers, consumers, followers, and suppliers, we've pulled together a few tips that may help you navigate this uncertain time:

1. Communicate honestly. Now is not the time for marketing jargon or sales speak, but a time to share the pertinent information that you have (whether it is about your working from home status, the timeline of your shipments, where you know your products are still available, or how to help those companies and individuals that you work with on a regular basis).

2. Don't be afraid to over-communicate, but ensure that you're communicating when you have something to say rather than creating unnecessary noise.

3. Use the channels that you own to share the appropriate information with the right target audience, through newsletters, your website, your social media, etc. in order to clarify any uncertainty and clear up unnecessary confusion."

Resources

The community has your back: consult, bookmark and revisit these resources as we navigate this tough time together:

The Brand Guild launched The Boardroom, a collaborative Slack workspace connecting you with other like-minded business leaders in our community. 

The James Collective created a 'Shared Resources and Recommendations' collaborative Google Doc.

The projects* wrote a super survival guide to social distancing

Flaunter’s founder Gaby Howard wrote a great article on how working from home looks during the new status quo and how to use digital tools to help PR pro’s thrive in a digital space.

Nylon Consulting’s Laura Bindloss recommends using this time to hone the skills you’ve been wanting to learn, but haven’t had time to. Tap into Skillshare, a great digital library with tutorials on topics like editing social media videos and much more. 

af&co and sister company Carbonate Group share a guide to crafting messaging around temporary restaurant closures, plus tips for adjusting your restaurant marketing strategy in times of uncertainty. 

Finally, important info for financial support:

NYC Assistance & Guidance for Businesses Impacted Due to Novel Coronavirus

NYC Employee Retention Grant Program

Facebook Small Business Grants Program

United Way COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund

How to Help

Now is truly the time to band together, whether you can contribute donations or awareness. 

Help provide supplies for hospitals:

Mask a Hero NY is connecting people that need PPE supplies donated with those that have supplies ready to donate.

Donate via Venmo to buy masks for Boston hospitals that are already running out of supplies.

Socialize (from afar) with trending hashtags:

Events: #SaveEvents #PostponeDontCancel

Design: #DesignStandsTogether and #OneWithItaly 

Hospitality: #RallyforRestaurants #SaveAmericanHospitality


Digital Conference Recap: Using Online Tools when IRL Isn't Available

The PR Net hosted our first digital conference, co-presented by Gaby Howard, founder & CEO of PR/marketing software platform Flaunter, focusing on leveraging digital tools to conduct business when IRL means aren’t available – a very timely discussion. The full recording of the meeting is available here

We were humbled by the incredible generosity of the people who spoke and shared stories about how their companies and clients were adapting - from multinational companies with tens of thousands of employees to boutique teams of three. Some of the key messages we heard were: 

  • We survived 9/11, we survived the global financial crisis of 2008 - we will survive this
  • Don’t operate in a vacuum - now is a great time to lean on your industry friends & colleagues
  • Adapt to the new normal fast to engage with your audience /consumers (for ex, restaurants and chefs are doing at-home tutorials)
  • Digital product launches, showings & desksides are proving to be effective
  • Take this time to learn new skills
  • Be relevant in the short term but plan for the long term - we are likely 4-6 weeks away from phased reopening
  • Treat your clients, media, and employees with compassion and empathy
  • People will remember how individuals and brands acted during this time, make decisions that you will be proud of later and prompt your brand/clients to do the same
  • Don’t freeze – connect with others and mobilize in ways that can help yourself and your comm’s sisters & brothers

The PR Net will continue with digital meet-ups during the next few weeks, with upcoming themes including 'Media Best Practices during COVID-19' and 'Events & Experiential Industry Spotlight.' We welcome your programming ideas and invite speakers to join in on these digital meetings.

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