Stimulus Rollout Leaves Citizens with More Questions than Checks

Many Americans awoke April 15, on what is normally Tax Day, hoping to find an emergency stimulus payment of up to $1200 in their checking accounts. For some, especially the unemployed or those ill from coronavirus, that money can provide a lifeline to groceries and alleviate looming bills.

While some saw evidence of pending transactions in their accounts, many, particularly those without direct deposit, received no relief. They wondered where their payment was, and what they needed to do to receive it.

Once again, communications is playing a pivotal role in the coronavirus saga. The federal government's guidance surrounding the stimulus rollout has been vague at best. Confusion is the result.

Citizens can calculate the total they'd receive via third-party tools hosted on websites like TurboTax, H&R Block and The IRS, though, did not release a stimulus payment tracking tool until yesterday. Many visitors seeking guidance from the tool received a message saying “Payment Status Not Available,” according to The Washington Post.

PR Takeaway: When launching a product, especially one critical to people's daily needs, it's important to over-communicate on every aspect of the release. In addition, a best practice is to create a central information center with an easy-to-remember website address. Mention the address over and over during press briefings, in social media posts, website ads and direct mailers.

In fact, the economic impact payment information lives on, but it might not occur to everyone to look there. In addition, the direction to go to was not distributed widely.

While a stimulus payment is not a product in the traditional sense, it needs a PR strategy. Kip Knight, operating partner, Thomvest Ventures and founder/CEO, CMO Coaches, in an article for PRNEWS wrote, Determine what media choices you need to make to get out your initial message to the target audience.

While many news outlets are reporting on the stimulus package, much of it has to do with citizens' negative experiences. The media, like many others, is trying to find answers to readers' questions that are not readily available. For crisis planning, it's important to anticipate what could go wrong and have answers ready for the public. Using a wait-and-see approach rarely works.

This article is part of PRNEWS' daily COVID-19 coverage, click here to see the latest updates.