Everyone and their sister is already writing about COVID for their PR blogs—and really, if you wait for a crisis to occur before you take actions to strengthen your team’s approach, you’re already well behind.
Instead, let’s talk about what you should do well before a crisis hits so that your media outreach and communications efforts have the capacity to not just survive it, but continue to hold strong. It’s never too early to make your team stronger for the next unforeseen challenge.
Here are 3 great practices to start with.
1. Internal communication
If your organization’s world (or the world) experiences disruption, and the left hand suddenly has no idea what the right hand is doing within your organization, it can cause even more in collateral damage. Despite having the best intentions, one team member’s actions could hinder or even damage efforts from other parts of the team. When it comes to communications, strategies are stronger when integrated across all internal departments.
If tools, systems and habits for strong communication are already in place within your team, something unexpected like a sudden virtual co-working won’t be as damaging to ongoing outreach and campaigns.
Systems like regular check-ins and easy ways to ask small, quick questions can serve as fuel to keep everyone on the same page and moving forward together, even when it feels like the world is turning upside down.
2. Building relationships
Every touchpoint with your audience, from a magazine feature to a tweet, is an opportunity to build relationships—don’t wait for a crisis to hit to start trying to do this.
Shortly after social distancing was implemented, my inbox was slammed with an influx of marketing emails. They seemed to come from every organization I’d ever engaged with, even if it was a single purchase via Square three years ago. Almost all of them wanted my support.
It’s been a real struggle these past few months, and my heart hurts for all the different ways various organizations and their teams have been impacted. But in a time when everyone is in need, the organizations that will inspire a rally of support are the ones that cared about their customer relationships long before they needed anything.
The same principle holds true for reporters, influencers, partners, and other external stakeholder—invest in every relationship you engage in on your organization’s behalf, at every touchpoint. When you come back later in that moment of turbulence, that foundation of trust could make all the difference in what responses you get.
3. Filter everything through the perspective of timeliness
A few weeks into the pandemic, a member of our team reported back from a follow-up call that the reporter had been overwhelmed to the verge of tears.
It was a good reminder that reporters need our empathy and help in these times as much as anyone else—and that any pitch we plan to take out right now better bear in mind not just the reporter’s beat, but what they might be writing right now, related to COVID-19. In other words, all the resources and expertise our clients have to offer must be put through the timeliness filter.
Because as crammed as a reporter’s inbox can get, you’re either helping them or hindering them. If you are offering something time-sensitive and contextually relevant, that investment in thoughtfulness can pay off a great media placement—a win for everyone.
This demonstrated sensitivity to timely relevance can also be an investment in the long-term relationship with that reporter—see point 2.
Strong Habits Make Resilient Teams—And Quality Results
When preparing a client for crisis planning, we like to say that you can’t predict what kind of crisis might come your way—in fact, the one you plan for is most certainly not the one you will encounter. Rather than make exacting contingencies, focusing on keeping your team and outreach practices their best can help safeguard your organization’s communications effort no matter what comes your way.