Transformational COVID communications—how to drive the national conversation

by | Apr 15, 2020 | Analysis, Covid-19, Public Relations

Transformation is different than change, and it is during this challenging time in the business world that we may take into consideration how to both communicate and operate differently in the coming quarters.

Transformation is led by a focused approach to company and brand leadership, in terms of defining a new direction. It is within this framework that we may anticipate how to act, as the playing field continues to shift in real time.

Every marketing and communications professional has an opinion about how late breaking news has been handled stateside and federally, and how recent crises underscore the need to disseminate accurate, fact-based information.

With an intent to spark innovation, transformation is sorely needed within our industry, and the media now, as evidenced by real time infrastructural, supply chain, and the hourly roll out of of unprecedented public health, economic and global pandemic news.

There is no room for hyperbole, polemics and hearsay. The stakes are simply too high.

It is in this respect that in tandem, we as PR pros must drive the national conversation through organizational transformation in real time, to quickly implement client-side strategies that include repositioning, change management forecasting, and quarterly strategic planning; allowing for quick pivots complemented by proactive marketing responsiveness, and internal team onboarding—albeit virtually.

We are witnessing this approach from the many media, cultural and advocacy organizations that we work with weekly, as they shift into daily dialogue, through Instagram live, Zoom discussions and launching TV series through Facebook and other live, global broadcasts. It’s a time to learn, share and advance, despite the daunting odds around us.

For PR pros, this is a unique moment to not only raise awareness for clients about sharing their unique team experiences working from home, but also to contribute to the national effort to produce gear, new ways of approaching problem solving, and raising funds for those sorely in need at this critical time.

  • The faster teams identify and pivot away from problems, the faster solutions will evolve
  • Identifying areas of opportunity in Q3 now will help end the year positively, and into 2021
  • Valuing human centric interactions and new ways of promoting teamwork will drive transformation, and new business ideation

At this time, when firms are embracing rapid-fire change by fostering a company culture of accountability, ownership ad workplace autonomy, there exists an opportunity to anticipate the coming months and business year.

Not only from a fiscal standpoint, but one of creative transformation and innovation—good can come from this time of much needed evaluation and transformation.

Transformational COVID communications—how to drive the national conversation

Author of ‘The Anticipatory Organization,’ global forecaster Daniel Burrus states pointedly, “This is a defining moment: uncertainty and disruption does not take a wait and see approach, we must act now.”

Burrus goes on to state that this defining moment for humankind means that the key now is to identify Hard Trends based on future facts that will happen, and then link an opportunity to each one. In this manner, businesses may communicate and operate most effectively within the current climate.

“The big question remains: how will you and your organization be remembered, and how best to communicate after this crisis is over—both as an agency, and client-side?” – Daniel Burrus

Many U.S. brands and firms have generously and swiftly shifted production, to meet these new realities. We need to as PR leaders too.

Courtney Lukitsch, Founder, Gotham Public Relations in New York says, “The fact that this is a global pandemic means that we are all invested in outcomes that forego the notion of business as usual.

“This is a time to reflect, redefine and create new pathways to collaboration, empathic communication, and innovative solutions to working together. It’s about the collective good. We may learn new ways of operating in real time,” she emphasized.

Futurist Adam Bryant says, “Embrace the art of leadership by acknowledging the personal side of this crisis. Recognize the national and individual psyche, treat people well, and anticipate that uncertainty creates a new set of intraoffice dynamics and external communication opportunities.”

How PR firms will drive the national conversation:

  • Proactively inform clients that work is ongoing and that media are very responsive
  • Encourage creative problem solving, fundraising, and employee – team morale building exercises; keeping all invested in this real-time pursuit of resiliency and excellence
  • Articulate to all parties that business is going to be quite different in the coming 18 months

The PR industry is known to align when times are tough, to strategize best practices in order to reach the largest audience, and to drive positive change.

As of April 2020, we have all witnessed the fortitude of multinational populations to band together to stave off an even larger global pandemic, and to identify real time supply solutions, decision-making based on empirical data, experiential case studies by country, and a pooling of resources and talent—unprecedented since WWII.

It is in this proactive, collaborative manner that as PR leaders, we must help our clients, teams and the public toward optimal probem solving, sharing of factual information and communicating positive news, toward a healthier and well informed society at large.

Sources: CIO, Fast Company, Forbes, Intelivate [graphic]

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Courtney Lukitsch
Courtney Lukitsch is Founder and Principal at Gotham PR, with offices in in New York and London.

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