The month of March is usually associated with lions and lambs, but March 2020 will forever be linked in our minds with just one thing: COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has turned all our lives upside down.
I hope this message finds you safe, healthy…and as sane as possible, in these trying times. And “trying” is probably the operative word there. You’re undoubtedly “trying” to do things you haven’t done before. For me, it’s trying to balance working busy days from home while attending to the social, educational and physical needs of my 1st grader. Plus, keeping up on the ever-evolving news, washing my hands and disinfecting everything we touch from the outside world.
Even though all social events have been wiped off our calendars, this is not a slow time for most PR pros. Our companies, clients and organizations need us now more than ever – they’re leaning on us to create clear, compelling and reassuring messages. That’s why I’m so grateful PRSA National has quickly made some great resources available to help us navigate this strange, new world. I picked up several important tips as I listened to one of the webinars, Communicating in a time of COVID-19 with Helio Fred Garcia. What I appreciated most, though was his perspective on why this particular crisis is so challenging. Simply put, it’s NOT just a crisis. It’s six crises in one, and each dimension needs to be carefully and strategically managed.
At the end of the webinar, Garcia reminded his audience that people are feeling incredibly vulnerable right now, and any form of kindness helps us get through this. Yes, we need to infuse kindness into our messaging and our interactions with family, friends and colleagues. But we also need to practice it with ourselves. We’re all managing a LOT right now, so be kind to yourself as you run, walk or stumble through your days.
One other note: Since we don’t know when life will return to normal, we have decided to postpone our April 28 event (all about demystifying the APR process!) until a later date. We’ll keep in touch via our newsletter and social channels so you know when we’re back in action. Until then, take good care! And keep washing those hands. :)
- Erin Elliott, APR
President, PRSA Northeast Wisconsin
Ensure ethics remain in your coronavirus communications
Whether you want to call the current situation we are in unparalleled, uncharted waters, unprecedented (a phrase I think has been way overused) or something else, the truth is that we are in a time none of us has seen before.
However, what should never change is our ethical approach to communicating – whether to our internal audiences or our external publics. As I read recently in a PRSA Thought Leadership article, “Communicators should always advise a cautious, thoughtful and truthful strategy to address any crisis, and not employ strategies or tactics that flame hysteria. This is especially important during a public health concern.”
Regardless of the situation, the basics of ethical communication still apply:
- Advocacy: We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent.
- Honesty: We adhere to high standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.
- Fairness: We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media and the general public.
It’s important not to sensationalize your message just to get a point across. At times like these it’s easy to use overly exciting or shocking stories, statistics or language to encourage readership and ultimately action. Many people are already overly sensitive to the situation we are in and the use of sensationalism only further perpetuates their fears.
Transparency in messaging and facts from reliable sources are most important. Those should be the guiding principles for any communications. The more factual information that can be delivered, the more balanced decisions can be made, and our publics will be better informed and prepared.
PR Pros Weigh In
The following was taken from the PRSay Blog which you can read here.
By David Cardiel, the head of demand generation at earned-media leader Cision.
The COVID-19 crisis looms large in our personal and professional lives. We are in the midst of a global pandemic while also finding new ways of managing teams and businesses.
After two weeks of working from home, I’ve accepted that remote work will be the new norm for the foreseeable future for many of us. But for business leaders, the question now becomes: Are we prepared to manage this crisis? We have a responsibility to do so appropriately.
Companies are adapting to remote work and business leaders must learn to navigate other new challenges, such as establishing a different kind of work-life balance while continuing to manage projects for employees and organizations. But with these challenges come opportunities for development and growth for your team.
Here are four ways for leaders to set up their teams for long-term success in this new norm:
1. Be sensitive and compassionate with employees.
In times of uncertainty, we can establish loyalty and trust if we handle the situation properly. As we manage this unprecedented health crisis, we must prove to our teams that we truly care about their well-being. Listen to their concerns and be supportive during this difficult time. This is of utmost importance.
2. Become better thought leaders.
Now is not the time to chase down new opportunities or business leads. The philosophy is simple: Show thought leadership and compassion now, and positive results will follow. During the coronavirus crisis, leaders must be a resource and provide support. We must also communicate this way of thinking to our teams.
3. Determine what’s essential.
As leaders, we should review what we need to sustain our businesses during this time of crisis. We must determine what’s necessary to succeed, what we might need moving forward and what is no longer useful.
4. Establish meeting cadences and milestones.
With shelter-in-place regulations growing, we must also communicate clearly with tools such as Zoom and Slack, and establish project-specific channels and daily times to communicate. Our favorite meetings this week just happened to be our morning coffee chats and virtual happy hours.
None of us can predict when the COVID-19 crisis will come to an end. In the meantime, it’s up to us as business leaders to remain patient, calm and sensitive as we navigate the changing waters of this new norm.
We have postponed our event about demystifying the APR process for April 28th for the health and safety of our members in time of COVID-19.
4/30 Doreen Dembski of DD Communication Services: Two Years
4/24 Rick LaFrombois of Wausau: One Year