CORONAVIRUS UPDATES: Communications, Coverage and PR Best Practices

coronavirus outbreak

Check back regularly for our latest coverage related to communications, PR and the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.


THE LATEST 

May 26, 2020

NYSE Chief’s Reopening Message as Bullish as the Market

by Seth Arenstein

Perhaps there’s no more iconic image of US business than the bell ringing on the floor of the NY Stock Exchange (NYSE). The floor reopened today. How its president Stacey Cunningham communicated the reopening likely will serve as a template for other businesses.

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May 21, 2020

Olympic Committee Learns Lesson, Pivots on 2021 Communications Strategy

by Nicole Schuman

After 2.5 months the International Olympic Committee seems to have seen the error of its ways. Back on March 3, as the coronavirus began to ramp up in several parts of the world, IOC president Thomas Bach encouraged athletes to continue training, as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were still on.

Sure, back in early March much of the world was still going about its “normal” business, but for an organization that large with so many connections to partners not to be prepared or at least acknowledging the crisis seemed almost irresponsible.

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May 19, 2020

How Moderna Communicated Its Hopeful Vaccine News

by Seth Arenstein

Pity the biotech communicators. They set up the nightly news broadcasts with an upbeat story yesterday. The story could've balanced the awful news that the nation eclipsed 90,000 deaths from COVID-19. The biotech company Moderna released initial good news about the first human study of its experimental coronavirus vaccine. Perhaps this vaccine could slow or even halt the pandemic. That's the lead story we all needed.

In the end, though, President Trump's hydroxychloraquine comment took the top spot.

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May 18, 2020

A Good PR Reminder: Don't Discount Images

by Nicole Schuman

Much of PR is focused on the message delivered through written or spoken words. However, it’s important to remember the impact of images.

With millions of eyes watching government leaders, healthcare experts and business spokespeople every day, the images broadcasted to the public can tell their own story. And with a society now hyperconnected to social media and digital communications, while content publishes at lightning speed, certain pictures and tweets and videos will always remain burned into memory.

This past weekend New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo received a COVID-19 test live during his daily press briefing. Cuomo announced the state can now conduct over 40,000 tests per day and encouraged the public to get tested by showcasing how easy it was with the cameras rolling. Not many will forget this image with Cuomo stating, "Even a governor can do it."

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May 15, 2020

Are You Confused Yet? U.S. Reopening Could Use PR Lessons

by Seth Arenstein

It’s not a political statement to say reopening the country has become, like much related to coronavirus, a political football. Mixed messages arrive daily, leading to a confused public.

For example, the country’s top infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, tells a Senate hearing to be cautious about reopening, particularly where children are involved. Hours later, the president is asked about the doctor’s assessment. He disagrees. The president seems to want a faster reopening, though he also says some states are not ready to reopen.

O.K., then, let’s ask a supposedly neutral observer, the CDC, for its opinion. The CDC, reportedly, has an extensive, 57-page document with reopening guidelines. It also has a 17-page guide for reopening. Excellent.

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May 14, 2020

Why Zoom Should Not Be Used for Everything, Particularly Layoffs

by Nicole Schuman

It seems that no industry can escape coronavirus economic fallout, with the gig economy especially feeling the pain. As citizens shift their daily activities to become more home-centered, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft see business dropping by almost 50 percent.

To cut costs this week Uber announced layoffs for 3,500 employees, or 14 percent of its workforce. While many companies are accepting the burden of letting staff go with more empathetic methods (Airbnb is a good example), Uber delivered the news to its staff with a brief Zoom call. The video leaked to the Daily Mail showed the head of Uber’s customer service office, Ruffin Chavaleau, delivering the news to the company.

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May 13, 2020

Note to Trump: Register the Domain Before You Launch the Campaign

by Sophie Maerowitz

On May 11, President Trump proclaimed the U.S. would “transition to greatness” in his administration’s push to reopen the economy. As a campaign slogan, it's likely to carry Trump’s communications team to November’s general election—or, as one website would have it, to the grave.

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Red Lobster CEO Apologizes for Mother's Day Mayhem

by Seth Arenstein

Public relations crisis management counsels that brands should own their mistakes promptly, apologize when there are victims and communicate how they are making things right. Red Lobster’s CEO Kim Lopdrup did that yesterday.

For many Americans, the tradition on Mother’s Day is to give mom a day off from cooking. As a result, it’s a big day for restaurants. It was this year, too, though nearly all orders were take-out, of course. Mother’s Day 2020 was a problem for some restaurants and several Red Lobster locations in particular.

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May 12, 2020

Hearing Shows Fauci is a PR Pro and a Scientist

by Seth Arenstein

The early portion of this morning’s Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pension (HELP) Committee hearing didn’t produce the communication bombshells some had anticipated when a NY Times article late last evening revealed a portion of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s messaging strategy. On the other hand, it allowed Fauci to speak his mind, highlighting points of divergence with the Trump administration’s communication about the virus.

Fauci’s remarks were delivered soberly. In addition, they did not come off as personal. The administration's top infectious diseases expert withheld names and direct criticism. He made points succinctly and in plain language, putting him in good stead with PR best practices.

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May 11, 2020

Shanghai Disneyland’s Reopening Could Serve as a Model

by Nicole Schuman

Shanghai Disneyland reopened today, with plenty of eyes watching. As parts of the world attempt to emerge from lockdown and stay-at-home orders, onlookers wonder how opening the gates to large destinations will unfold, particularly with park-goers.

Early reports from CNN say Shanghai Disneyland yields an experience a bit different from the norm—a park that normally holds 80,000 visitors and 12,000 "cast members" at 30 percent capacity, and plenty of changes to provide safety for park-goers. All guests are required to wear masks, have their temperatures taken at entrance and socially distance. They must show a green QR Shanghai health code, which allows for government contact tracing. At ride lines, yellow tape measures 6 ft. spaces to help riders safely distance. And guests can no longer hug or touch characters, but are allowed to pose for non-contact selfies.

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May 10, 2020

The White House Gambles on its Virus Messaging

by Seth Arenstein

If real life were like the movies, then if the President of the United States and the Vice President were exposed to a potentially deadly virus, the script would have the White House press secretary addressing those reports in an opening statement during a press conference.

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May 8, 2020

Lysol and Clorox Clean Up with Their Communication

by Seth Arenstein

The novel coronavirus is shining a spotlight on heretofore unheralded people and things. Cleaning and transport staff, fast-food and supermarket workers now are essential employees. Finally. Also essential are healthcare workers, some of whom have ascended to heroic heights. Then there is the sudden fame of goods like toilet paper, soap, rubber gloves, masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectants.

What? Beyoncé's at the Starbucks? Who cares? Target just got a shipment of Clorox wipes!

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May 7, 2020

Airbnb CEO Delivers Empathetic, Transparent Message Regarding Layoffs

by Nicole Schuman

As of Thursday, 33.5 million Americans have filed for unemployment. And it appears no one, even global tech and service companies are immune to the economic downturn.

On May 5, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky sent a message to his employees, also made available for public viewing on the company’s blog, outlining the current economic state of Airbnb and where it needed to go next. Unfortunately, that included layoffs. Twenty-five percent of Airbnb’s workforce or 1,900 people out of the company’s 7,500 total staff lost their jobs, but Chesky delivered the news in a way that should make most CEOs and their communications departments take notice.

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May 6, 2020

‘Where’s the Beef?’ Is Going Viral (Again). How Are Communicators in Impacted Industries Responding?

by Sophie Maerowitz

Given its place in the American lexicon, it is somewhat unfortunate for Wendy’s that the phrase is going viral yet again, let alone in a viral context. Wendys' "always fresh, never frozen" slogan, launched in 2007, is much fresher in the minds of the American public. The brand rose to prominence on social media for its clever brand voice, most memorably its response to a Twitter troll in 2017 questioning the "never frozen" claim.

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Messaging About-Face: On Coronavirus Task Force, Trump Pivots, and Then Pivots Again

by Sophie Maerowitz

On Tuesday, the Trump administration told reporters that they had begun to phase out the coronavirus task force formed in January to coordinate the public health response to the virus.

Wednesday morning, however, following a wave of negative press, the President contradicted the announcement on his lectern of choice–Twitter. The task force would, he wrote, would “continue on indefinitely.”

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Virus Spurs Communicator to Look to Chapter 11 for New Business

by Seth Arenstein

The coronavirus has prompted PR firms to create practices aimed at helping brands, companies and organizations work during the pandemic and make plans to emerge from it. Given the virus's decimation of the economy, another angle has opened. Later today a firm will unveil a practice dedicated to the specialized communication around Chapter 11 proceedings, bankruptcy and litigation.

23-year-old, Los Angeles-based BobGold & Associates will announce that it’s formed a practice in anticipation of a wave of bankruptcies and Chapter 11 filings. The veteran communicator Bob Gold will lead the practice. The unit will add another bankruptcy and Chapter 11 communicator, Paul Jacobson, of Denver-based SilversJacobson. Gold and Jacobson have worked on Chapter 11 and bankruptcy cases over the years, including the multi-billion-dollar Chapter 11 reorganization of former cable provider Adelphia.

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May 5, 2020

How Mariah Kennedy-Cuomo Masked Her Dad's Poor Communication Skills

By Seth Arenstein

What's a father to do when your 25-year-old daughter says you're an ineffective communicator, and you have an important message to send? And to make things more complicated, you've got a big job where communication is critical.

That was the issue New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo wrestled with the other night. Cuomo told reporters during today's press briefing, My daughter says “I’m not always a good communicator…and I admit it…I’m trying to get better…I’m a work in progress. We’re all a work in progress.”

The important message the governor wanted to relay is that all New Yorkers need to wear masks when they are in public. “Ninety-nine percent of New Yorkers” are donning face masks, Cuomo said. He wants the remaining one percent to join them.

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Brands Encourage at-Home Cinco de Mayo Celebrations

By Nicole Schuman

Cinco de Mayo usually welcomes revelers for one of the prime party days in America. Spring has sprung, the weather is warmer and there’s not much to dislike about Mexican food or margaritas. The day not only brings business to many bars and restaurants across America, but for many adjacent brands as well. 

This year, brands pivoted to encourage activities and engagement for Cinco de Mayo—at home—complete with appropriate hashtags for easy sharing. Taco Bell, Avocados from Mexico and Bacardi’s Patrón all debuted original campaigns for revelers to celebrate, even in quarantine. 

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May 4, 2020

Amazon VP Makes a Statement With a Statement

By Nicole Schuman

Amazon is not doing itself any favors with its recent handlings of employee relations. For a company that just reported $75.5 billion in first quarter earnings, up 26 percent from Q1 2019, they are failing to take care of their own—the front-line workers who work in warehouses across the world, and delivery people connecting with hundreds of customers every day. 

According to an April 21 article in The Guardian U.S., "workers in more than 130 warehouses around the country have contracted Covid-19, with some warehouses reporting more than 30 confirmed cases." This led frightened workers to organize, many protesting by calling in sick, demanding Amazon close down facilities with verified COVID-19 cases and provide testing to workers, as well as offering two weeks of pay during closings. 

Amazon has not responded well to employees' asks, firing employees who have served as whistleblowers and described conditions to the media and public.

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May 3, 2020

Health and Safety Will Remain Top of Mind Post-Pandemic

By Seth Arenstein

A PR and marketing maxim holds that you can never know too much about members of your audience. With so much possibly changing during the pandemic, what PR pros and marketers know about their audiences perhaps is no longer valid. It’s fortunate, then, that polls and survey are proliferating at this moment. Also fortunate, homebound audience members are more likely to respond to polls and surveys.

Periodically, PRNEWS is synopsizing data from surveys and polls that could be germane for how audiences are behaving and will behave.

For example, a survey about food-related habits shows consumers likely will keep health and safety issues top of mind, regardless of states re-opening. Their main fear isn’t health risks stemming from employees of restaurants, markets or groceries, it’s their fellow customers, the study found. People also will be more cautious about spending to dine out, the survey indicates.

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May 1, 2020

MIA: Authenticity and Transparency at Amazon, VP Pence's Office

by Seth Arenstein

When PR pros use the words internal communications, they generally mean messaging from corporate leaders to staff. Traditionally, internal communications is an afterthought, a low priority. At this uncertain moment, though, it’s taken on a renewed importance. Over-communication with staff has become the order of the day. In a PRNEWS survey earlier this week, a significant majority of respondents (65 percent) said now is not the time to ease up on over-communication with staff.

The words internal communications mean something else at Amazon currently. Vox's Shirin Ghaffary and Jason Del Ray reported this week that the online behemoth is attempting to stifle large groups of corporate employees from communicating with each other.

On Monday, Amazon’s IT department alerted corporate employees who manage large listservs (500 people or more) that they need approval from a moderator before posting messages.

[PR Takeaway: Expect that what goes on inside your company will find its way into the media or social media. In a sense, internal communications no longer exists.]

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