By Mostafa Razzak, JMRConnect: Shaping Influence Worldwide®
The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis the likes of which most people have never seen in their lifetimes. Store fronts are shutting down, people are being told to shelter in place, national emergencies are being declared, and death rates continue to rise. These are trying times for every single one of us.
In spite of this crisis, we still have to keep our businesses afloat. And that means staying in touch with your customers and stakeholders in the face of external forces. This is why public relations (PR) is more important than ever in the wake of COVID-19.
The challenge is adapting your PR strategies as as COVID-19 changes both consumer behavior and business operations.
Impersonal Communications Isn’t Good Enough
Regardless of the industry, every business needs to communicate the same message to customers and stakeholders as the COVID-19 pandemic continues—that you’re still doing everything you can to meet and exceed expected service levels during this difficult period of time.
The way you communicate this message matters. But the reality is that impersonal PR tactics are getting lost in the clutter, at best, and frustrating your customers, at worst. You know that when you’re facing a crisis, you have to say something to your customers. It’s crisis management 101. For most companies, that seems to mean sending a corporate email that resembles the deluge of communications pushed when GDPR went into effect.
These emails can be an effective way to stay in touch with customers and stakeholders during the pandemic if handled correctly from a PR standpoint. However, many COVID-19 emails are just thinly veiled attempts to drive sales and consumers are getting frustrated.
In a recent New York Times article, Messiah College professor of marketing David Hagenbuch said that “consumers are increasingly savvy…As we read these emails, we can tell pretty quickly if one is being sent with the former types of reasons in mind, our health and safety, versus ones that just come across as kind of disingenuous. They’re just trying to roll with the tide.”
Your attempts to not just keep in touch with consumers – but to stay connected during the pandemic can’t just be insincere attempts to stabilize revenue. Corporate communications must focus on long-term reputation management. That’s why, according to Adelphi University Director of Digital Marketing Michael Wentz, sending emails with facts about the pandemic and specific company responses to it “gives consumers ‘a better understanding or appreciation for that company because they felt the need, even though they’re not obligated to and it’s not in their purview to be giving me that information.’”
But even if you’re taking steps to make emails to customers and stakeholders more focused on social responsibility, there’s a good chance your messages will get lost in crowded inboxes.
At a time like this, email may be too impersonal to effectively stay in touch with your customers. People have more to worry about than corporate emails sitting in their inboxes.
By focusing on employee advocacy, you can make more genuine connections with customers and stakeholders as this pandemic continues (and once it’s past).
Employee Advocacy Makes Communications More Genuine
During a global pandemic, your customers want to connect with other people—not faceless corporate accounts. While your company needs to maintain its communications strategy, your employees are your best advocates for maintaining the organization’s reputation during such a difficult time.
The truth is that content shared by employees is far more likely to see engagement than information shared by a corporate account. If you can get your employees to advocate for your brand as the Coronavirus crisis continues, you’ll set yourself up to maintain relationships in both the short and long terms.
The challenge is that many companies are trying to coordinate communications, marketing and sales initiatives while implementing remote work policies for the first time. Many (if not all) of your employees may be quarantined with limited means to perform their normal job functions—let alone adding advocacy tasks to their list of responsibilities. Striking a balance comes down to the strength of your employee advocacy strategy.
Employee advocacy isn’t just about supporting a company culture that your workforce wants to naturally share with family, friends, and followers. It’s about standardizing your approach to amplifying messages in ways that convey authenticity.
Having a centralized platform for employee advocacy ensures that your stakeholders are aligned on the messaging your brand needs to communicate to customers and stakeholders. Giving employees a seamless way to share approved messaging is critical—not just during a crisis, but during normal operations, too.
First-party recommendations and thoughts are much more sincere and valuable than canned PR emails from a “do not reply” email address. And if ever there was a time to make the most of such a genuine approach to PR, it’s during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Want to learn more about making employee advocacy a key component of your crisis response plan?
See how one company is amplifying its messaging and maintaining customer relationships through employee advocacy. The results will astound you!
Mostafa Razzak is CEO and Principal of JMRConnect, an award-winning public relations, influencer communications and digital marketing firm. For businesses in competitive markets that need visibility in media, online, in the news and on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media, JMRConnect is an award-winning, public relations, digital and influencer marketing agency that connects brands with their target audience.
It’s noisy out there. If you have a story worth telling and a brand that you want people to remember, find out why we are the right people to tell it. Contact us today to give your brand a Shaping Influence® that sways opinions. www.jmrconnect.net