Is it okay to use a crisis in your PR strategy?
Coronavirus has swept the world in a matter of months. ‘Unprecedented’ and ‘furlough’ will be contenders for ‘Word of the Year’ and the way we live our lives has changed for the foreseeable future. Of course, we must remember that, first and foremost, Covid-19 is a health crisis. If what we do is not essential, the instructions are simple: Stay home. Save Lives. Protect the NHS. But it is not feasible to say that business should end entirely and with that comes the dilemma of whether to advertise in times like these. So we’re asking the big question; Is it okay to use a crisis in your PR strategy?
To put it simply: No.
It is never okay to use a crisis to promote yourself. It is not okay to take advantage of a situation that is causing misery to others or to treat it as a bandwagon on which you can hop. It is certainly not okay (and borderline illegal) to profiteer in desperate times.
If you are asking yourself the question above, revisit your phrasing.
· Is it okay to acknowledge a crisis in your PR strategy? Yes.
· Is it okay to promote services you can provide that can help during the crisis? Yes.
· Is it okay to share how your business will be adapting during the crisis? Yes.
Admitting coronavirus has impacted your business and that you’ll be closed or working from home means you remain connected with your stakeholders. You keep them updated and show them how and when they can reach you. If you provide a service you feel can genuinely help, we encourage you to promote it. Deliveries, technology, anyone who just happens to have something useful, these contributions matter. There is a big difference between buying 17,700 bottles of hand sanitiser to hike up the price and selling on facemasks you happen to acquire in your line of work.
Public Relations requires relating to your publics and right now, all of them will be talking about coronavirus, so relate to their concerns. Tell your customers you’ll be back when this is over, keep your employees informed on what’s happening with their jobs and work with other businesses. And if your business isn’t affected, you have nothing useful to contribute and you plan to continue as usual, is it okay to not mention Coronavirus? Of course.