The fine line between ‘overwhelming’ and ‘positive’ Covid-19 comms

By Claire Gamble, MD Unhooked Communications,

The coronavirus outbreak has already provided a wealth of PR case studies on what not to do during a global crisis.

Sports Direct, Wetherspoons, and Britannia Hotels are just some of the businesses facing criticism from the public for how they’ve handled their operations and comms. Even the humble book retailer Waterstones faced backlash when it went against government advice to try and keep its brick-and-mortar stores open.

We conducted research which shows just how much of a risk it is for businesses to get their Covid-19 comms wrong. According to the study, which questioned 2,000 people, a third (32 per cent) said they have received ‘too much’ or ‘far too much’ content from businesses relating to coronavirus in the last two weeks. A quarter (23 per cent) find the level of information from businesses ‘overwhelming’ and a fifth said it’s ‘worrying’.

Getting comms wrong during the pandemic can have disastrous consequences, with more than one in ten people saying they’ve boycotted a business because of what or how they’ve communicated in recent weeks.

Additionally, one in ten people have seen businesses they don’t trust sharing information they’re not sure is accurate. On top of this, 28 per cent of consumers have received Covid-19 emails from businesses they don’t remember signing up for or haven’t heard from in a long time, raising questions around GDPR compliance.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom and there are real opportunities for businesses able to get their comms right. Over a third (36 per cent) have seen organisations sharing ‘useful’ information, and over a fifth (23 per cent) have seen businesses sharing ‘thoughtful’ content or ‘good news’, which made them feel more positive about the current situation.

Choosing the right channel to engage with target audiences is important too. The research found the most popular channel for consumers to receive information from businesses relating to Covid-19 was email, which was the preferred choice for 37 per cent. This was followed by the media, which 30 per cent said was their preferred channel. Social media seriously lagged behind and was only the preferred channel to access Covid-19 comms for 6 per cent.

A lot of businesses are understandably looking at how they’re communicating with their customers during the global coronavirus crisis. But while consumers are responding positively to those who take the time to get their approach right, businesses that have a knee-jerk reaction are finding themselves in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

With 24/7 rolling news, issues around fake news spreading on social media and the official guidelines changing constantly, businesses need to consider whether they really need to add to the noise out there. But there is a place for good news and useful information.

The public respond favourably to this and there are some real opportunities for PR and comms professionals who can help organisations share some positivity during these uncertain times.

For full details of the study, visit:

Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash

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