Crisis PR: How We’ve Supported Our Clients During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown us all into a talespin. Regardless of who you are, it has affected you in some shape or form. As both a small business owner and PR agency, we felt the effects on both ends. We’re trying to cater to our clients who’ve had to shutter their doors abruptly and alter services to remain open. While at the same time, deal with losing clients and suffering the financial repercussions. Two months later, we’ve adapted and have tried to be a support system to everyone.
All of our clients are different – we work with independently owned restaurants and non-profit organizations to physicians and local chambers of commerce. Every client and their needs are different.
How Restaurants Can Leverage PR During Coronavirus
There have been a lot of stories about how hard the hospitality community has been hit as it’s employees count for 20% of the nation’s workforce. Many websites and support groups on social media we’re created devoted to compiling information regarding which restaurants were open and exactly what they we’re still offering: curbside pickup, menu, delivery, etc. There we’re even social media initiatives set up to encourage takeout to support all of our local restaurants. In the first few weeks, we focused on using these tools to educate our clients and get their information out as quickly and efficiently as possible.
By the end of March, early April it was about helping the community and the hospitality industry. What are you doing to support out of work staff and people working on the front lines. This turned into initiatives including feeding the homeless community, first responders and alcohol sales directly benefiting staff.
The next phase consisted of adaptation – what are they doing to alter their business model to sustain an extended closure of dining rooms and traditional dining as we know it. Pick-up windows and dining rooms turned into food pantries & mini general stores, cocktails kits to go, family meals, etc.
How PR Can Help Physicians During Coronavirus
Another example are physicians. We already focus on positioning them as experts, but now even more so! The public can’t get enough of the medical advice & opinions regarding COVID-19, so it’s an important time to position them as a helpful source.
How Businesses Can Tell Their Stories During Coronavirus
One big focus that the media wants to hear about are community stories. What are people and businesses doing to fill a “need.” The needs have changed from the start of the pandemic, from toilet paper to hand sanitizer to flour with more in between. For our chamber of commerce, we highlighted their local merchants who we’re doing amazing things for the community. Distilleries producing hand sanitizer, breweries teaming up with bakeries to use their spelt grain to produce more flour and local metal workers & artists donating their PPE to hospitals.
And let’s not forget, going virtual!!! This has actually been really fun to see the many ideas that have spawned from sheltering at home. Cooking demos, exercise classes, exclusive tours and more. Our favorite was a cocktail class from a local distillery. So many people signed up, ready to prepare their very own cocktails at home in unison! It was interactive with many open questions from the whole group and gave us a “normal” feeling when so many people are starving for that social interaction.
Overall, we’ve been focused on heralding all of the positive deeds our clients we’re doing and continue to do as we make our way through these uncharted territories!
The Path Forward
Now we look to the future – reopening plans! All industries are different and have different opening phases based on information provided by our local government officials. But one thing is true for all industries – how are you going to keep your staff and customers safe? Being open and transparent is key when sharing safety guidelines, sanitization procedures and social distancing measures. What will your protocol be? We recommend showcasing a creative way to convey this information via social media, email newsletter and your website. One great way is through video. Make a video that grabs their attention and highlights everything you’re doing as a responsible business to prepare for opening. Are you setting up sanitization stations? Marking the floor with circles for customers waiting to stand six feet apart? Taking temperature and counting how many people are inside to control capacity?
All of these ways that you are adapting your business to follow the new guidelines are key to share. Yes this is a serious and uncertain time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put a little humor behind it. Any way to make people relaxed about visiting your establishment and making them feel that you’re keeping their health as a #1 priority!
We’re staying positive and looking forward to many of our clients and the rest of the businesses throughout the country reopening and trying to navigate the near future. Business owners are flexible, resilient and know how to weather the storm. Let’s make it through together!