Any pandemic creates havoc on the smooth functioning of a business and results in declining profits and job losses. Now that is just the tangible damage. The intangible damage is by far more potent and long-lasting. Now you will ask me: what this has got to do with Public Relations? While the tangible loss is unavoidable and there is not much that PR can do about it, it is the powerful intangible loss that PR can successfully handle and perhaps even mitigate. Some of the key responsibilities taken up by PR professionals in a pandemic are as follows:
The voice of reason: When a crisis hits, it is very easy for the client team to get swayed by trends that may not always be accurate or lose sight of the overall key reputation pillars. PR professionals act as the voice of reason and remind them of the vision and mission based on which the company has built its reputation. One wrong move in a crisis could bring the house down. Every message should be in sync with the overall communication and reputation of the brand.
Chart a course of action: While there are so many things that need to be done in a crisis, communicating with internal and external stakeholders to maintain trust and credibility is one of the most essential ones. The PR team chalks out a strategic plan and sets the pace of the plan. This plan helps the client team share information in a planned and phased manner to avoid overwhelming or disappointing the audience and ensures the information is timely and relevant.
Point person: The PR team takes charge of the crisis communication, maintains vigilance, and runs the media outreach for the client team. A good team is one that understands the business, client team and the media and is able to take nuanced decisions so as to maintain the delicate balance between all parties concerned. This avoids multiple messaging by diverse stakeholders.
Key Messaging: While it might be cool to use trending words, the PR team takes the responsibility of ensuring that the messaging going out on behalf of the company is in line with its communication policies, maintains the right tonality and can pivot quickly if required. They are constantly analyzing and studying the information coming in and preparing a possible response based on it to ensure it is not tone deaf.
Internal Communication: This is a key component in managing the crisis. The PR team works closely with the leadership and HR teams of the company to ensure that all its employees are in the loop of steps being taken to handle the crisis and what to expect. This is one of the most powerful and key factors in determining the flow of the conversation in a crisis. The support and buy-in of your employees into the crisis management plan and confidence in the leadership team goes a long way in overcoming a crisis.
Sounding Board: The confidence of the stakeholders is essential to the existence and growth of a company. Many a time, the PR teams become a sounding board for the leadership team and help them understand the overall repercussions, anticipate any backlash or goodwill for every action taken in a crisis.
Crisis Management Experts: If there is anyone that is always prepared for a crisis, it is the PR team! They usually anticipate the possible kinds of crisis that could hit your industry or company and are equipped with a crisis management manual. Adapting to the ongoing situation and turnaround time is quick for a team that is always ready.
Setting the Right Tone: Setting the tone of the crisis communication is essential to its success. This can turn a disaster into an opportunity for a client to garner goodwill or take up more business depending upon how they deliver the message. This is best done by the PR team.