How to Adapt PR Strategy in the Face of COVID-19

Similar to nearly every industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced PR to adapt. Brand PR pros are rethinking the role of strategic communication so they can avoid losing valuable visibility and awareness.

So, several questions remain: Can PR be successful during the pandemic? And if so, what is the right approach?

The Challenge of COVID-19 Dominating Headlines

As the environment has changed, brand communicators need to shift goals and strategies.

A central challenge is adapting PR to meet a changed news environment. As we know, coronavirus stories continue to dominate and the news cycle is moving faster than in pre-pandemic times. Brands have had to move quickly to ensure their messages are relevant, relatable and respectful. In addition, how brands tell their stories is important. New and more timely angles are necessary. Content around distancing, sheltering-in-place, quarantining and virtual everything influence pitches and messages.

Best Practices for Transforming PR Strategy

In an uncertain and difficult year, brands have learned that a key to PR success is flexibility. Brand communicators must commit to transforming PR strategy to the changed reality. The following are ways to evolve your PR approach:

Monitor the News Cycle to Ensure Relevance

Media interest in the pandemic will continue indefinitely. Crafting messages without monitoring the news and social conversations is never a good idea. It's worse now. As journalists and news outlets are active on social platforms, follow media on social and if possible, work with your social media team to incorporate social listening. This input likely will assist you in creating timely, impactful storylines and pitches. In our sector, listening and monitoring shows consumers are seeking nutrition, fitness, and health and wellness information relevant to staying at home and virtual activities. This information factored into our pitches.

In this fluid situation with constantly evolving updates and information, pitches should be news-related and provide context appropriate to your company and industry. Pitches can relate to consumers' coronavirus experiences or other breaking stories, but do not pitch products or services as a way to combat the virus.

Elevate Expert Voices

Leveraging company thought leaders is a strategic way to communicate expertise around news topics of interest. Social thought leadership is another way where company experts can become resources for media, employees and consumers by sharing on platforms where audiences seek information. As we noted above, consumers are home and searching for relevant information. Does your brand have executives who can supply it? If so, tap them.

Highlight Support for Society

It's a difficult time, yet a few good things continue to happen. Don’t be hesitant about communicating good things. Perhaps your company is supporting communities and societies as they combat the pandemic. Learn about your company’s CSR efforts related to the pandemic and, if appropriate, evaluate how to communicate them transparently.

Make It Global

To maximize coverage, consider tailoring and translating storylines to pitch globally. As COVID-19 is a worldwide crisis, pitches can be adapted to be in tune with issues and needs in different regions.

Jennifer Butler is VP, media relations/corporate communications, Herbalife Nutrition