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  • Writer's picturePetersensPR

Pandemic PR

PRWeek has just announced they’re adding two new sectors to their Campaign Category Awards. City & Corporate Communications will cover all things aimed at businesses, cities and investors, with focus on reputation and repositioning – a complex category to conquer. Perhaps even more complex however - given the biggest crisis of 2020 - will be the second new category of Healthcare: Ethical and OTC consumers.

The Healthcare category examines campaigns done by or on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, targeted to consumers directly or through GPs, pharmacies, and healthcare providers. It will also run alongside a separate category for Responses to Coronavirus, which will examine best crisis management, good cause initiative and pro-active communication strategies. So what are some of the challenges entrants to these rounds would have faced in the year 2020?

“Content needed credentials” Every brand-consumer relationship is predicated on trust and this usually comes from several positive experiences over time – quality offering, competitive price, happy to help, quick to resolve etc. In the pandemic however, Coronavirus Responses and Healthcare campaigns didn’t have time to build a rapport. Their messaging had to be firm but encouraging, consistent yet impactful. Suddenly doctors, nurses and pharmacists’ advice were mixed in with the fears and thoughts of the general public on social media. Content needed credentials.

“No refunds or returns”

Whilst it’s not the goal of any PR campaign, one redeeming feature for brands trying to build trust is that anything that isn’t perfect can be refunded or returned. It allows consumers to take that initial leap of faith in a brand, whilst giving businesses a second chance.

There are no second chances for the healthcare industry. Sure, there legal routes for a patient, and insurance for the practitioner. But when it comes to what really matters - good health, speedy recovery, quality of life - there are no refunds on ineffective health advice or returns on their consequences. Healthcare PR campaigns have no buffer if the result is not perfect. Messaging needs to be right.

Competing against each other You may be questioning why Coronavirus Responses doesn’t fall under Healthcare. After all, the marketing strategies, audiences and objectives are the same, right? In the same way crisis management, community relations or social media marketing run at completely different paces, Coronavirus Responses and Healthcare PR had very different challenges ahead of them; Covid campaigns had to make an impact asap, in an area that had become inundated with various messages in a matter of weeks. Healthcare faced the opposite; what was once consistent, medically sound, and accepted messaging was now questioned and overshadowed amid the scary, new pandemic. PR suddenly had to make old information stand out again, whilst acquiescing with new regulations. The two categories had to simultaneously work together whilst competing against each other.

In less than a month, Spring and Summer plans were thrown out in exchange for lockdown content, and Pandemic PR came into its own. We take our hats off to the entrants in both Coronavirus and Healthcare categories this year and congratulate you on your brilliant work.

Though we sure hope we never have to see it again.

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