By Dawn McGuigan,
March 2020 will be remembered as the month when coronavirus turned the world on its head.
Global lockdowns, enforced homeworking and mass closures of public venues became the norm as we all tried to do our bit to stop the virus spreading.
Aside from the obvious business and financial worries, PRs seem to have been better placed than most to cope with the changes to working culture – working remotely, agilely or from home is already commonplace to many.
But that doesn’t mean that our clients can cope with such a huge change. Our client management skills and creativity have never been in more demand as we look for ways to keep in touch with clients in these strange times.
I took to Twitter to ask PR freelancers and agencies about the ways they are communicating with clients during coronavirus. While a varied selection of digital platforms is being deployed, it’s the more traditional communications channels that are proving most effective.
Here’s what they told me:
Video calls and conferencing
PRs have taken to video like never before to check-in on their teams and clients.
Almost everyone I spoke to said Zoom was their go-to platform for video calls and conferencing (Skype’s market share must have plummeted!).
Video provides the much-missed face-to-face contact we’re used to having with clients so can offer some extra reassurance to those struggling with isolation.
Messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Slack and Facebook Messenger provide instant contact to individuals and groups. The ability to segment audiences is a key feature, with PRs able to provide bespoke messages to employees, senior leaders and other stakeholders.
Chloe Hall of Bumble and Bloom Media said WhatsApp has been particularly useful for communicating with employees of a large multi-site organisation and its senior team.
Live Q&As and webinars
To service multiple clients at once, many PRs have delivered live Q&As and webinars to provide advice on crisis and stakeholder management.
Agency and consultancy network Pimento has been one of the many organisations to use webinars to share ideas, concerns and expert advice with the PR industry itself.
While video calls and instant messages are great for quick catch-ups, PRs are still turning to email to keep clients focused. Lauren Archer told me that email has been really useful as a weekly touchpoint for clients and to help them concentrate on their long-term strategic goals.
Good old-fashioned phone calls are making a comeback in this digitally saturated time. The sound of a familiar voice without all the trappings of a technically complicated (for some) video call can provide a reassuring check-in for clients. Victoria Moffatt from Lex Rex Comms told me phone calls have proven to be the most engaging way to manage her clients.
Remembering we’re human
The resounding message I got from PRs on this subject was that we’re all human. This is a particularly frightening time for everyone and our communications activity must echo that – from the channels we use to the tone of the content we share.
Lots of PRs are sharing funny homeworking anecdotes and introducing their clients to their pets and children during video calls. We’re all getting to know each other a little better on a personal level.
There is also an awareness of the need to set boundaries for our digital exposure. When everything is online and personal contact is limited, our mental health can suffer.
Looking after ourselves and showing human concern for our clients certainly seem to be the things that will get us through this – both personally and professionally.