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Turning Pandemic Lemons Into PR Lemonade


DATE: 14 September, 2021

When ‘normal life’ is in a constant state of limbo, love it or hate it, mainstream media plays a central role in our lives. Suddenly, the premier’s press conference or the chief health officer’s media release has an immediate and direct impact on our lives. 

And while the COVID crisis may have wreaked havoc on our best-made PR plans, it also presents an opportunity to leverage a highly engaged audience through earned media.

But it’s not about forcing yourself into the conversation, it’s about being ready and prepared to add your voice where it’s relevant and aligned with your values.

The COVID cloud

It’s hard to find space within the COVID cloud. Brands/organisations/public figures may find the PR strategies that were getting cut through pre-pandemic aren’t as effective now or there’s no appetite for them. 

So, like all good businesses, we must pivot. There are plenty of opportunities and new communication approaches to consider.

Earned media presents one of the biggest opportunities at a time where consumers are so connected to news. It’s probably the first time ever that most people know the names of all of our breakfast TV and talkback radio hosts. Additionally, the names of all our state premiers and actually know how to pronounce Berejiklian and Palaszczuk

Marketers can be creative with content and investigate new methods to forge connections with customers and stakeholders. It’s about finding ways to adapt and considering new routes to winning ‘hearts and minds'.

How to reignite your earned media approach?

Authentic messages in the right channels

Firstly, don’t deviate from your core brand positioning and purpose. And especially don’t try to insert you/your organisation or your product into a COVID conversation if it’s not relevant or going to help people. This type of publicity will be called out immediately. Only engage if you have something really important to say. And if you do, then you must have your spokespeople ready and prepped. The broadcast media are extremely eager for new opinions and voices. But you need to have your key messages firmly in place and your clear reason for being in the conversation.

Reputation management

The flip side of this is the increased hunger for news and an urge for more information. People are trying to arm themselves with the latest updates and voice their opinions. This has led to the proliferation of misinformation, ‘professional' social media commentators, keyboard Karens and opportunists all looking to voice their opinions. 

Brands will find consumers are more willing than ever before to make comments on every communication that goes out into the world.

Make sure you have a solid social media escalation plan, as well as an issue and crisis management plan that can be activated at any moment. 

Entertainment focused content

While people are so connected to the media. There is also pandemic fatigue. We want relief from the ‘COVID show'. We are depressed and we want entertainment. Find other new ways to entertain and engage people with content that is meaningful and cuts through the clutter.

An influencer strategy can assist with that. It’s now widely accepted that influencers are one of the most trusted sources for connected consumers. If you don’t already have an influencer strategy – get one now! If you do – dial it up and get creative. Especially with the content creators that have a connected and engaged audience. And those that will collaborate with you on creating meaningful content. There are some extremely innovative people who are experts in content that will build their channel. Use them as your new sources of inspiration!

Targeted approach

It’s not always about mass reach. Sometimes it’s about a specific story, with a specific journalist to the right audience. Focusing on quality over quantity is important for brands now. Journalists are also looking for different ways to engage their audiences. They will speak to brands or organisations who have something to say that will resonate with their audience. Find the right fit and the right place for your storytelling.

Connecting people

More than anything, people are craving connection and empathy. They are missing out on a huge part of their lives.  Try and find a way to combine commercial objectives with human emotions. What value do you have at the moment that will contribute to people’s lives right now? How can you help your valued customer base or connect with new ones?

No one is in the mood for untargeted and irrelevant marketing or messages.

Being very clear on the best channels and the way to communicate is so important.

Be brave

Instead of being stuck in the COVID cloud, it could be a really good time to stretch your PR strategy. Explore new areas and new channels. 

Be more creative with ideas and platforms. 

Find influencers who will collaborate with you and help you create better storytelling. 

And find new ways to connect.