The pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the worldwide Great Resignation, the supply chain crisis…. Over the past two years, we have lived through a number of unprecedented, international crises. As a result, businesses and the global economy have gone through some bumpy patches, to say the least.
The phrase “business as usual” has never been less applicable to the way businesses run their operations. Many companies are facing a new normal, and none of us are quite sure what that will look like yet.
Instead of maintaining their normal operations, organizations across the globe have been forced to slow down and recalibrate their approach.
How do companies market and sell their products or services when the global economy and atmosphere are constantly shifting?
In response to international events, it’s more important than ever to take a delicate approach to serving, selling, and communicating with customers and potential clients.
Public relations has never been so critical, so here are some do’s and don’ts for managing your business’ PR during this strained time.
How to navigate PR during difficult times
In any crisis, taking these proactive steps can help manage your public relations.
1. Create a crisis communications plan
How many organizations have a plan for engaging key stakeholders when a crisis strikes? Building a crisis communications plan can help your team understand how to respond to events both small and large.
The right proactive approach can help your company adapt to unprecedented disruption, like sudden pandemic closures.
2. Offer flexibility for payments
The financial markets have undergone severe volatility as a result of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. As a result, many investors have shifted their money to bitcoin.
Bitcoin price has increased dramatically as its popularity has grown, and many companies have started accepting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a way to give customers another, more flexible way to pay.
3. Talk to your clients
The many current events impacting our daily lives should be discussed. Clients will appreciate your sitting down and taking the time to talk to them about crises—whether they’re impacting every aspect of everyday life or seem far away.
That might mean explaining to your clients that you can’t pitch their products right now, or telling your customers that you will have reduced hours because you need to volunteer at a refugee shelter.
4. Re-examine your content plan
If your company uses social media or content marketing, make sure any planned content or posts won’t be viewed as in bad taste or tone-deaf by the public in light of developing global situations.
For example, perhaps don’t launch a campaign featuring happy friends on a road trip while gas prices are causing most of us to rethink how to save gas.
Throughout any crisis, continually re-examine any and all content set to go live. This should be part of a larger strategy to align with your company’s external communications team and focus on stakeholders.
5. Consider how your organization can help
Does your organization offer training programs for jobs? Do you have surplus items you can donate, instead of sell?
When a crisis springs up, go back to the drawing board and think about how your organization can help. If you can donate products or offer services to the community, you can be a force for good as well as earn some positive attention from the public.
Putting in place any policies that take effect immediately shows the public that your organization cares, and that you want to act right away to help out.
PR pitfalls to avoid during strained international relations
During times of crisis, make sure to re-examine your company’s external and internal communications plans. Take into account these tips:
Don’t be tone-deaf
Be aware of the current climate. Millions of people are out of work, fleeing war, or experiencing grief. Now is not the time to pitch products or services catering to the elite and wealthy. It comes off as tone-deaf and turns people against your company.
Don’t exploit the crisis
Many businesses have seen a drop in traffic, sales, and interest as a result of current events. People aren’t spending money because, in a lot of cases, they can’t afford to.
Don’t try to find an angle that will help you monetize the crisis, like overpricing products or selling essential items that may be substandard in quality, like questionable personal protection equipment.
While you may get positive press for humanitarian efforts or other ways of helping people experiencing the effects of strained international relations, don’t make gaining good press the sole reason for your efforts.
Don’t keep pitching
Now is also not the time to pitch your latest product. Many news outlets will be overwhelmed covering the pandemic, the war, and general news. Unless your company is offering products or services that will directly help those affected or a donation that helps with the crisis, avoid wasting everyone’s time and skip pitching.
Don’t force your products or services into the narrative
This is called “newsjacking,” and it’s a common temptation for businesses trying to stay relevant during a crisis. Do not try to weave your clients’ products or services into the crisis narrative.
For example, pitches like “weight loss strategies during the war,” or “planning for your funeral after your death from Covid-19” come off as predatory and uncomfortable. It’s just bad PR, and it will lead to public shaming.
Managing public relations during any crisis requires forethought, planning, and alignment with your team and your company. If you want to grow into a well-oiled PR machine, make sure to sit down as a team and discuss the situation at hand—and make smart decisions accordingly.
At the end of the day, customers and potential clients want to find value in organizations. They want companies to stand up and do the right thing in times of crisis. It’s your responsibility to guide your team in that direction.