In order to help Canadian brands navigate the recent Coronavirus outbreak, we asked Thara Tremblay-Nantel, co-founder of the public relations agency, Thara Communications, a few questions about crisis management and media relations.
What kind of message should companies be conveying right now?
Businesses need to adapt to the new reality of their consumers and share news and messages in that regard. They also need to think about what they can do or offer as products/services to meet their customers’ needs in times of crisis. It is also a good time to show their humanity and their company’s values.
A great example we’ve seen recently is Cook it’s good deeds: Cook it, in partnership with Pur Vodka, has offered 6,000 meals to the restaurant workers. The meal delivery service is an essential service and the demand for their product is higher than ever. Promoting their services online is crucial right now as they can fulfill the population needs for delivered food.
Another great example is Strom Nordic Spa. They have been creating online content to help users focus on what really matters and relax. In the upcoming weeks, they’ll continue to share comforting and relaxing content, which is particularly welcome in these exceptional times.
The Alliance des cabinets de relations publiques du Québec also offers valuable, actionable and relevant content to its users on their platforms.
What approach do you think businesses should take to maintain their online presence in times of crisis?
Businesses should focus on giving back to the community, cultivating existing relationships with their customers and show their audience that they are available and ready to help. This can be done through blog posts, free workshops, contests, etc.
If a business can still generate revenues online, we would suggest investing in media relations and influence marketing to increase traffic coming to their website. For example, partnering up with influencers and offering affiliate coupon codes can be incredibly effective to reach a new audience or increase sales. The customer gets a discount, and the content creator receives a commission for each purchase/subscription. It’s a win-win.
Also, if a holiday is coming up, like Mother’s Day for example, the media will certainly prepare content around “Mother’s Day COVID-19 gift guide”. Getting your product featured in one of those articles or blog posts, is a great idea to support your sales.
Should a company that had to stop everything due to new government rules continue to publish on social networks or send out newsletters?
I think it’s a good thing to keep in touch with your customers. You don’t want to throw away the strong relationships that took years to build. Without publishing content every day, I think that showcasing your mission, visions or values through social media and email marketing can have a positive impact on your relaunch. Use these platforms to show that your management team is working hard on your recovery plan. That will be reassuring for your customers.
In terms of public relations, what can be done to kickstart your recovery when the crisis dies down?
The crisis we are experiencing is unprecedented in its magnitude, making it hard to plan for the future. That’s why we need to consider several possible scenarios. Ideally, we can create a timeline with different possibilities for recovery depending on the duration of the crisis. You’ll also want to take seasonality into consideration when building out your place. You can also take a look at what other countries are doing and how they are dealing with their recovery. I think that keeping up to date with what’s happening on our planet and in your industry is key. Flexibility and responsiveness will also be your greatest allies.
How can a PR agency help companies navigate through these difficult times?
I wrote a whole article (French only) on how a PR agency can help e-commerce businesses navigate the crisis. Otherwise, crisis management is very important, and public relations professionals can offer advice tailored to your business. I already know that companies that didn’t have a crisis management plan pre-COVID-19 will invest in one so they won’t make the same mistake twice.
What type of content should companies be sharing right now?
Businesses should turn the spotlight on the employees supporting their businesses to connect with customers on a deeper level. They should also focus on giving back and helping out others in their community without losing sight of their mission as a business. If you have products or services that fit into our whole new reality, put them forward.
What level of transparency should companies have with their consumers regarding their current challenges (processes, temporary layoffs, etc.)?
I think that in times of uncertainty it is important to be transparent, but it’s also important to identify what information is relevant to your users and what should remain private.
The first question you should be asking yourself is: Do I need to share this information in order to protect my clients’ or employees’ health and safety? If the answer is yes, then communicate it quickly. For example, if someone infected by the virus visits your store, as it happened in some grocery stores, it is important to get the message out to your consumers, follow health protocol and even close down for safety.
There are also a number of things that go without saying right now. If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer and you had to close shop to follow government rules, it’s understandable that your employees were temporarily laid off as they can’t perform their jobs at this time.
As for your company’s financial health, I would wait to see how the crisis evolves before announcing any drastic measures or decisions. The government is launching help programs almost daily, so your situation might change quickly.
If you have more questions about your online presence during the COVID-19 crisis, let us know by email ([email protected]) or read our other articles about the crisis:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marie-Joelle works at Bloom, a digital marketing agency, as a Marketing Coordinator. She's passionate about digital marketing tactics (from social media to web design) for B2B businesses looking to grow online.