A PR perspective on managing the situation, sharing information and staying healthy throughout the coronavirus

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A global perspective

Information is changing daily, if not faster, and staying connected and up-to-speed is more important than ever. In addition to supporting a geographically diverse client base, Thompson & Co. PR is supporting a team with offices in five states, including Alaska, California, Wyoming, Texas and New York. Having satellite offices made the transition to working from home seamless and also enables us to share insight on local developments and access different resources across the nation.

We’ve counseled clients and enacted emergency protocols for ourselves and others through earthquakes, hurricanes, technology crashes, avalanches and more. However, in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, we are adjusting to a new normal in response to a pandemic not on caliber with anything from our lifetimes.

As communications professionals, we’ve mastered the balance between constant connectivity and information overload. Zoom, Go To Meetings and Slack are just a few of our favorite ways to keep in touch. We’ve even launched a COVID-19 Slack channel where we share breaking news, industry updates, PR pitfalls and uplifting stories. Stay tuned for how we use these resources in our upcoming blog on tips for working from home!

 

One of the most unique things about the current environment compared to other crises we may see as communicators is the whole world is experiencing this one together. This isn’t an isolated incident related to your company or your brand. During this time, internal communications with staff is just as important as external communications with customers, stakeholders and media. With that in mind, here are a few important tips:

  • Taking care of people is as important as taking care of the crisis itself.
  • Do not speculate. Whether you’re sending an email to customers, speaking to media or even talking with co-workers, speculation leads to misinformation, which can contribute to fear and negativity. Only speak to what you know and remember it’s okay not to comment until you have the facts.
  • Verify everything. In addition to avoiding speculation, constantly changing information leaves more room for possible mistakes. Have you ever heard the saying ‘measure twice and cut once?” It applies to PR too. It’s easier to double check your facts before sending them into the world than correcting misinformation once it’s out there.
  • Determine who the responding agency is and coordinate with them from the beginning. Depending on your area and industry, this may be the local municipality or department of health. Identify them and reach out.
  • Understand and respect the newsroom. The media is working overtime to cover the issues completely and responsibly. Be considerate when sending pitches and information and do your best to accommodate their schedule and needs. During this time, you may offer phone or video interviews as we practice social distancing.
  • Remember you’re not in this alone. Manage your team’s time to provide shift coverage and employee breaks.
  • Above all, be transparent, show accountability, be compassionate and remember we’re all human. During a crisis, PR professionals and communicators need to be a voice of reason and remain calm.

As you develop messaging, remember to follow the guidelines put in place by the Associated Press. The AP Stylebook has created a topical guide for the new coronavirus that includes some of the most commonly used words and phrases in stories about COVID-19. Their guidelines are meant to limit confusion and prevent exaggerating fears. They are always updating it so check back often!

 

Rely on good, factual information

No one understands your business better than you. You know your industry inside and out and have experts on hand to share their knowledge. For topics outside your expertise, rely on voices that are trusted in their respective industries.

For example, unless you are a health agency, don’t provide medical advice. Instead, use messaging from trusted agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and direct people to their website for more information.

Here is a short list of trusted agencies to use when crafting messaging about COVID-19:

World and National
World Health Organization
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Johns Hopkins Tracker

State of Alaska
State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
Municipality of Anchorage
City of Fairbanks
City and Borough of Juneau

 

Never stop learning

B.B. King once said, “The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” Social distancing, city lockdowns and travel restrictions may limit our mobility but in the digital age we have access to countless online resources for education and professional development.

Take advantage of extra downtime to learn a new skill, invest in your career, or discover a new passion. Here are a few ways continue learning:

  • PR professional and pitching coach Michael Smart led a webinar “Thoughts on Overcoming this Crisis – in PR, in the Economy, in Life.” He shared ways to take control of the situation, focus on the positives, provide valuable content and set achievable goals.
  • Book lovers can take advantage of a free Audible membership from Amazon. Enjoy access to a large selection of audio books, wellness programs and more through the app.
  • Public Relations Society of America has countless online training sessions and webinars. “Communicating in a time of COVID-19” focuses on the importance of effective communication in response to the first global health crisis in the social media world.
  • At T&C, we understand the importance of carefully crafted messages and media training for clients. Agility PR Solutions’ webinar “Speaking with strength: message and media” will share media relations tips from preparation through delivery.
  • Get tips on managing social media during a crisis from Sprout Social’s Live Customer Q&A with Alterra Mtn. Co, Indiana University, VSSL Agency, and Nutanix. If you can’t tune in to that, check back for our COVID-19 social media guide.
  • Executive coaches Elise Mitchell and Janet Tyler’s webinar, “Rising to the challenge: Leading at your best in uncertain times,” shared business knowledge and leadership insights. Promoting confidence and positivity, they shared the four R’s of resiliency: recharge, reframe, review and reflect.
  • Whether you prefer music or the arts, here are three ways to add an extra dose of culture to spur creativity:
  1. Stay At Home Fest is bringing virtual concerts, comedy shows and more to your home theater. Tune in for performances from MET Opera performers, the Indigo Girls, Neil Young and others.
  2. The show must go on with BroadwayHD. For a limited time, the streaming service is providing free access to Broadway shows, including a curated playlist for Women’s History Month and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 72nd birthday.
  3. Take a virtual museum tour of 12 world-famous institutions, including the Guggenheim Museum, National Gallery of Art, Van Gogh Museum and British Museum.

 

Kudos to the community

Challenging times bring out people’s true colors and we’re celebrating our community leaders with hearts of gold. Our own Tenets & Convictions challenge us to be grateful and give back, choose kindness and positivity, and embrace transparency, honesty and trust. The list could go on forever but these are a few of our favorites:

  • As COO of the only full-service, Chinese speaking, tour company in Alaska, Jin Chen with Alaska Skylar Travel has been instrumental in bringing Chinese travelers to the state. Despite challenges from travel bans, she’s using her energy to help the community. She’s launched a Facebook Group to help people under quarantine and spread the news about resources available.
  • We all know that small businesses are hurting and people are getting laid off but there are many ways to help. Shout out to Facebook for helping spread the word about how people can shop locally with its Small Business Grants Program providing $100 million in cash grants and ad credits.
  • Thanks to Edible Alaska, people throughout the Last Frontier can find up-to-date information on restaurant delivery options, food pantries, cures for cabin fever and other important information.
  • It’s a trying time for everyone, especially the first responders who are working tirelessly to keep us safe. Alewife Brewpub in NYC is sharing the love by offering a free dinner and beer for pick up to all first responders with an ID.
  • As the Bayou City mourned the cancellation of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, veteran food vendor RCS Carnival provided a silver lining by donating all unused goods to the Houston Food Bank. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt followed suit by donating $350,000 to the organization and inspired other star athletes, including Astros players Alex Bregman and Lance McCullers Jr., to join in giving and make appearances at the distribution center.
  • Last but certainly not least, we’re giving a big virtual toast to our fearless leader Jennifer Thompson. Always a trailblazer and one (or more) step ahead of the curve, she implemented a strategic work-from-home policy to protect her employees and empower us to better support our clients. Daily Zoom check ins and virtual team happy hours are just a few ways she’s supporting our mental health and productivity!

Follow us on social media and check out our next blog to stay in the loop on our latest updates.

 

Megan O’Malley and Kelsey Fiedler

 

 

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