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Covid-19 public relations advice points the way to a better future

Scrabble tiles spelling the word purpose

One of the first pieces of public relations advice I ever received was ‘never let a crisis go to waste’.

Yet, much of what I read about public relations and communication during the Covid-19 crisis strikes me as stating the bleedin’ obvious. I have struggled with blogs, LinkedIn posts and videos which exhort companies to ‘be sensitive’ or ‘make sure what you’re doing is relevant both to your brand and the community’.

When would you not do those things?

With a few exceptions, businesses have shunned stupid public relations stunts and needless opportunism. Those exceptions have been called out.

Such as the lantern company which exhorted us all to release Chinese lanterns to ‘thank the NHS’. They clearly believed that heartfelt clapping was not sufficient; what people really ought to do was buy their products and release them into the sky to fall who knows where and cause who knows what environmental damage.

Public relations advice needed when restrictions lift

If anything, I think the advice of all these Covid-19 bloggers is going to be much more relevant once restrictions are lifted. Releasing the pressure valve will be too tempting for some.

On the domestic scene, many of us have already noticed appeals to set up street parties as soon as social distancing rules are relaxed.

It’s the same with businesses – there is a danger that marketeers will be so desperate to be seen to revive their businesses that entertainment will trump strategy. Too eager to let their hair down. “We’ve been responsible long enough; our customers expect us to reward them with a bit of irresponsibility now.”

Responsible public relations aids community cohesion

In many ways, we may have surprised ourselves how effectively communities have come together, households share with one another and care for their vulnerable neighbours. There has been little civil unrest and the selfish idiots have proved to be largely those who were selfish idiots before this all started. Everywhere we turn, people say “Isn’t this refreshing, I hope it stays this way.”

Can business show the same spirit of social responsibility? Again, many businesses have thrown themselves into the resistance movement to Coronavirus. Making face masks, delivering supplies to hospitals, transforming filling lines from beer and gin to hand sanitiser, keeping the shelves full.

This activity is absolutely vital and companies are right to channel resources (including their communications activities) into supporting the NHS and preventing the spread of this virus. I encourage marketeers to look beyond the obvious, short-term needs of society. What can you do to continue to demonstrate your commitment to a better society after Coronavirus?

Many companies have been thinking this way for a long time. These companies, also termed purpose-driven, put the good of society at the heart of their vision. To talk about your reputation and a better purpose, contact us.

We’ve all experienced the benefits of people pulling together. Can it last? Let’s hope so. A new paradigm of socially-responsible business could be just around the corner. Now that would be a story worth shouting about. Sensitively, of course.

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