Published on 7th April 2020
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The Covid 19 pandemic is likely to be a genuinely defining time for employee engagement and how employees view their current employer. People will remember how other people, brands, governments and employers behaved. And there will be tighter emotional bonds with those who were considerate and helpful.
So first advice to employers is to be kind. Kindness can come in many forms. It can be the tone in which you explain the need to furlough an employee or the genuine recognition that an employee who has to home-school simply cannot perform the way he or she would at work.
Declared as a pandemic, there is widespread concern about COVID-19. As this day dawned, businesses are facing a real threat that can jeopardize not only the health of employees, but the financial stability of the organization and the public’s confidence in it.
In such a situation, communications are crucial, and transparency is key.
Let’s take a look at six facets of the day-to-day work of communications and public relations professionals whose services may be needed, and the best practices to stay the course during this storm, the intensity and duration of which are unknown.
Covid19 is making everyone anxious. This anxiety is much more than about just catching the virus. It’s about the huge uncertainty the virus is creating. People are uncertain about the impact this will have on their employer, their job, their ability to pay their bills.
This is a genuine test of leadership. How does a leader create certainty for every employee? I believe that the SCARF framework provides a very useful checklist for leaders to follow.
Beyond the physical symptoms, the effects of COVID-19 can also be felt in the general well-being of workers. Since the government’s announcements, a number of employees are now working from home or have seen their work habits change within a few hours. How can business leaders help their teams deal with this new reality? We believe that mindfulness is part of the solution.
At CASACOM, we practice mindfulness on a regular basis. Before each team meeting or important exchange, we conduct a guided meditation of a few minutes to allow us to refocus and even increase efficiency. We also organize group meditations on Mondays, to start the week well, and on Wednesdays, to navigate it with strength.
In uncertain times such as right now, mindfulness can be key to increasing the level of resilience and reducing employee anxiety. To find out why and especially how to make mindfulness part of your work environment, we spoke with our coach, Lucie-Anne Fabien, president of Metaconscience, who helps companies incorporate mindfulness into their business practices. This is the fruit of our learning.
One thing that has always surprised me has been the propensity for leaders to turn to outsiders to get advice on what an organisation should do to improve its performance or innovate its products, services or processes. That may seem a strange thing to say as someone who has built his career on providing advice. But the missing part of the first sentence is … <em>without first asking the people that work in the organisation.</em>
It’s my firm belief that everyone that works in an organisation will have at least one good idea on how to improve something. And, if every leader took advantage of this collective innovative potential, the results would be transformational.
There have been some shining examples of effective communications over the last few months since the pandemic took hold. At the same time there have been some PR disasters which as one expert commented could lead to a ‘reputation recession’ for some brands post COVID-19.
So, which brands and leaders have won the hearts and minds of people around the world.
One of the striking reactions to the crisis from many organisations has been to do nothing. Even for the most challenged of organisations this is not a viable option. In fact, an article in the Harvard Business Review shows that those who try to cut their way out of a crisis/recession perform worst after it. The need for progressive action is perhaps best summed up by a quote from Helen Keller, who understood isolation better than most. She said: “A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.” So, it’s essential for organisations to focus on how to emerge stronger from the crisis. My advice is to communicate in a way that forges tighter emotional bonds with your employees and your customers.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly one of the worst in living memory for most people. The suddenness and the rapid spread of the virus across the world have caught many companies (and governments) by surprise. The reactions of many of business leaders and heads of government have ranged from shell-shocked silence to impressive displays of leadership.
Understandably, many business leaders today are grappling with the need to balance between safety of their employees, current financial sustainability and the long-term viability of their companies. And the opportunity to remain relevant and to demonstrate care and leadership, is to ramp up communications to stakeholders – both internal and external.
How’s your brand’s health?
Whether things are in limbo or you’re charging ahead like never before, what you do for your brand right now will speak volumes when the world rights itself.
We’re all in uncharted territory – a unique situation that warrants a unique check-up on brand health.
We’ve spent a lot of time building brands and protecting them through good and bad. So we’re sharing our check points to dial in on ways to nurture your brand health now, and continue moving it forward in a post-COVID-19 world. Follow along with our 4-part series.
COVID-19 is all over the news cycle, with the virus being named in almost every story. In sharp contrast, many brands are taking a ‘Harry Potter-esque’ approach, as in “a virus-that-may-not-be-named” to their advertisements, with the use of euphemisms that are now ubiquitous.
J.P. Morgan states: “In these uncertain times, look after yourself, your family, your friends. But know when it comes to your finances, we are here for you.”
AT&T promises: “These days, it’s anything but business as usual. That’s why working together is more important than ever. AT&T is committed to keeping you connected.”
Sprint states: “At Sprint, our priority is keeping our customers, employees, and communities safe. During these uncertain times, get the great service you expect without leaving the safety of your home.”
Quilted Northern: “We’ve been making toilet paper since 1901. And we won’t stop now. We’re working harder, faster, together to get the shelves stocked. And provide comfort when you need it most.”
This begs the question: Is it worth it to switch gears and pull normal ads? Yes, resoundingly so, according to a recent survey by Adtaxi that found that 68% of people find it helpful when ads show regard of the current scenario and 62% know that brands mean well.
As so many of us find ourselves working from home, things that used to be only minor irritations have the potential to be disastrous. This past February, if storms disrupted power or internet service, it was mostly annoying and at worst, an inconvenience. But now with thousands of employees working from home and school districts around the country finishing the year online, such a situation could have a broader impact. Similar could be said for a breach of data and systems security or disruptions to the supply chain. The essential goods and services we may never have thought twice about before are top of mind now, as are the employees of the organizations that provide them.
On April 28th, agency president Stefan Pollack joined fellow Worldcom Public Relations Group partners for #KaizoLive, presented by our U.K.-based PR partner Kaizo. The topic? US PR agency leaders on the challenges brands are facing and the opportunities that still exist in the current climate.
Pollack was joined by Worldcom partners Elizabeth Sosnow, Managing Partner at Bliss Integrated Communication and Matt Kucharski, President of Padilla. The program was live online with broadcast and virtual content partner Disruptive LIVE on LinkedIn and Twitter and can be seen here.
The impact of the pandemic is unprecedented and devastating, with its duration unknown. So how can businesses manage their brand and reputation during this uncertainty and more importantly, start preparing for post-pandemic recovery?
The answer is multifaceted – a people-centric, transparent approach with a goal to create an environment for best possible recovery. It requires a pivot on strategy to maintain business as usual while adapting to the reality of life during and after the global pandemic.
Like all crises, the focus for brands should not be on managing the crisis, but rather on managing through the crisis. This future-centric thinking will ensure business continuity.
People innately want to connect. This unprecedented time has disrupted our human need for connection. Our daily routines of coffee chats, workout classes, and subway commutes are essentially a thing of another time, as we take the necessary steps of self-isolation in our effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Searching for ways to fill that void, we’ve gravitated toward something familiar: social media.
As a society, we’ve turned to digital platforms like Zoom, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook to stay connected with family and friends and maintain a sense of community. With everyone home, it’s easier now, more than ever, to connect with people through digital platforms and keep up with our craving for social interactions.
We’ve heard from many of you about the unprecedented and fast-moving circumstances facing our various organizations as a result of COVID-19. Right now, we are all navigating this very serious and fluid situation.
As operational policies shift and transform, and we deal proactively and reactively with the landscape as it evolves, now is the time to focus on communicating in a clear, consistent and concise way with key stakeholders.
A few weeks ago, coronavirus seemed like an inconvenience at most. Now, with more than half of American jobs in every category suddenly at risk because of the financial consequences of the coronavirus crisis, the future of your own organization may seem imperiled. Lives are upended, program revenues are halted, and donors and other supporters themselves face uncertainty.
You need no reminder of the many factors you cannot control. Many nonprofits will need to reduce staff; others may close and not reopen. It is vital, even in these early days of this crisis, to envision what you want your organization to be when we eventually emerge from imminent threat of coronavirus and finally have a clearer account of lives and livelihoods forever changed.
Be reassured that even the most catastrophic crisis can be an opportunity to showcase inspired leadership. Now is the time to step forward with reason and optimism to prepare your organization to emerge from this crisis better than before.
Where to start?
The global implications of COVID-19 – commonly known as coronavirus – appear to be changing literally by the hour. We thought it might be helpful to share what we’re seeing and hearing from the experts on our Health and Crisis + Critical Issues teams as well as our outside partners around the globe.
Regardless of where this goes, we’re advising companies to carefully consider the importance of communications to key stakeholders who could be affected, concerned or simply interested in its potential or real impact.
Based on several conversations with our contacts in various public health departments, here are a few observations:
The spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and related economic disruptions present huge challenges for communications leaders, especially for those leading the function for global companies with business interests and employees around the world.
The situation is fluid and fast-moving. Actions, decisions and communications that are appropriate for a worldwide audience may not be appropriate for a localized audience in places where the public health dimensions are more acute, and vice versa.
Communications, public relations and marketing decision-makers need to balance competing priorities.
The global COVID-19 pandemic is taking us out of our comfort zone and forcing us to measure our words and actions. Business leaders know how essential communication is under such circumstances.
After offering a first guide to address communications and public relations during a pandemic in this blog post, here are seven more specific recommendations.
Media relations is a cornerstone of most PR and marketing campaigns – one that is reliant on the ongoing and ever-changing news cycle. In a time of crisis, such as COVID-19, it is the news cycle, and not the professionals’ efforts, that often dictate media relations success.
So how does one garner the media’s attention for clients in a time of COVID-19?
1. By understanding how the news cycle operates in times of crisis and
2. By finding inroads to insert your client’s narrative in meaningful and authentic ways.
Enter: The Mirror, Picture and Window process of crisis news reporting.
Normally when we think of “crisis communications” it’s about a company that’s having to do emergency public relations because it did, or is accused of doing, something BAD (ie, an oil spill, harassment), and it has to defend its reputation. That’s NOT what’s happening here in the face of the coronavirus. In this case, something has happened TO everyone, TO every company. Still, while not at “fault,” leaders need to speak to the issue in ways that support their people, their brand and their values. It’s tricky, so I recruited a seasoned PR pro for this very important and timely interview. Even when we’re past this challenge, you’ll find the lessons in this podcast episode valuable.
In our work with clients to address the Coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency, we are beginning to see an echo effect, as the first wave of crisis communications activity, having to do with immediate organizational response, subsides or reaches a maintenance level.
Download our Covid-19 (Coronavirus) communications whitepaper: ‘Business Leader’s Guide to Effective Crisis Communications’.
It’s almost guaranteed that your favorite bar, clothing shop, or salon closed its doors in recent months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of other businesses did the same. But even as they were physically closed, savvy marketers made sure their brands and shops were present elsewhere: on your social media feeds. Here are a few pieces of advice for using social media to keep the proverbial light on, even when your business goes dark.
As Americans, collectively, we have a dubious, worldwide reputation for enjoying a long-lived, starry-eyes-in-rose-colored-glasses love affair with celebrities. Earlier this year, a quick survey of traditional news, social media and digital content headlines would have provided undeniable proof of an unhealthy obsession with the Kardashians, Will/Kate/Meghan/Harry, the Real Housewives of (fill in the blank) and dozens of others clambering for the limelight.
Since the onslaught of COVID-19, we’re seeing the tide turning.
Some speculate the impact of COVID-19 to be the plateau, and eventual decline, of the influencer phenomenon that has reached its arguable peak. While they would be correct in their observation that “influencing” audiences is trickier now, there is an opportunity for change or growth.
Yes, brightly colored walls, obscurely hip coffee shops, and exotic locations are harder to access for content. Yes, it is even a trickier negotiation to find the balance between “influencing” and not being perceived as tone deaf or insensitive. The challenges notwithstanding, influencers can find creative ways to collaborate and remain relevant even during a pandemic none of which require recycling old content or mirror selfies.
Uncertainty about the unknown is normal. What we are experiencing has no close precedents. Is it possible to have formulas for situations not previously experienced? Without wanting to question the intentions of specialists, the reality is that we have to take action. Although we have been talking about making changes – many of which were already in progress – are now being forced to make them. Medium and long-term planning must be left in the past, because we have to start acting in the short term. Personal and work life must initiate “adaptation” processes. The “VUCA environment” could not have given us a better lesson than this current experience. We are learning and relearning.
When I was in middle and high school (long before social media), I looked forward to reading the Dear Abby and Ann Landers advice columns in the local newspaper. It was fascinating to read the pearls of wisdom that Abby and Ann offered their troubled readers to make things all better.
In recent weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed PR professionals into advice experts for our clients who want to know how to protect their brands and emerge with their companies intact. It can be tricky business to counsel a client facing extraordinary circumstances.
Here are five tips to consider when offering a client your two cents during a global pandemic or other high-stakes crisis.
Even businesses with solid crisis plans in place couldn’t have foreseen a pandemic scenario like the one unleashed by the global spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). After the initial shock triggered by social distancing restrictions, not to mention the stock market tumble, organizations need to keep their focus on maintaining business continuity. Whether your business is deemed “essential” or “non-essential” under the new emergency directives, how you communicate can protect your bottom line and corporate reputation. Here are three things every organization should prioritize.
Nearly all businesses have been impacted in some way by COVID-19, and the PPC world is no exception. Unless your business is lucky enough to be selling hand sanitizer, face masks, toilet paper, or even vodka, the impact on your PPC accounts is likely not positive.
What you shouldn’t do is freak out and pause all of your campaigns. In fact, now is an optimal time to invest more time in further optimizing your campaigns, given that the entire world is at home and browsing on the internet for things to entertain them, interact with, and view.
That said, let’s take a look at what you can do to stabilize your efforts, and ensure that you sustain your ROI from your digital marketing budget.
Uncertainty is what makes dealing with a crisis so difficult.
Crises are seldom isolated incidents, but more often a series of events that escalate, sometimes to the extent that they threaten a business’ existence.
Never has this been truer.
It’s hard to think of a sector of the economy that won’t be affected by the Covid-19 crisis except, perhaps, the manufacturers of toilet paper, hand sanitisers, medical gloves and facemasks.
Following the President’s announcement on Sunday, by now, responsible businesses will have plans to limit or prevent the spread of the virus. They will have communicated these policies to employees and informed clients, customers and suppliers about what they are doing and the extent to which these measures will or won’t affect them.
Job done? Not quite.
The coronavirus has impacted every part of our lives. Our thoughts go first and foremost to the people that have been severely affected, and our heroes on the front lines. I also find myself thinking about our clients and peers, who are tasked with marketing and communicating in an incredibly complex, sensitive and uncertain environment.
Our new marketing reality: The best-built plans are now in disarray. Events are canceled, and campaigns and trends that were hot two months ago are no longer relevant. As marketing leaders, our job is to adjust our strategies, refine our stories and where possible, use the time and budget to explore new channels and approaches.
Here are nine ideas and considerations for marketing amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
With the world in various states of lockdown and social distancing, you likely have had to make your office virtual, and have your staff work remotely. This may put a damper on the timeline of your campaigns; for now you’re having to continue on without an easy way to generate new content. In fact, video can be particularly hard to produce when no one is in the same room. So, what are your options?
In the public relations world, there are a handful of case studies that serve as sterling examples of effective crisis communications. Tylenol and Diet Pepsi stand out. In each of these cases, leadership set the tone for the response. Organizations reacted quickly, communicated frequently and outlined a clear action plan with a timeline and solution options. In hindsight, it’s now well-understood that the public’s perception of danger outweighed any actual health risks.
This time it’s different.
The coronavirus pandemic will no doubt define the entire year of 2020. As we continue to see the outbreak spread and how governments and businesses adapt and respond to COVID-19, we’ve seen changes in every aspect of our daily lives. Even on Google, we’ve seen large shifts in the way people search during this crisis. Advertisers know all too well that COVID-19 has impacted many industries and their PPC campaigns, but understanding how to adjust to the rapidly changing trends can help keep campaigns and businesses agile during this uncertain time.
As Covid-19 disrupts the marketing landscape, consumer brands have shifted communications—and in some cases manufacturing—to find ways to help their customers stay safe and meet basic needs.
Business Operations / Planning
What companies can do to prepare for a return to work post COVID-19
Here is a problem you might not know you have yet: We’re going to return to work.
Be it in the office or some version of what we had before. We can’t know exactly when, but we do know for certain it will happen, and it will certainly be different.
For those of us in non-essential services, that could mean leaving the home office and returning to the workplace or starting to look for employment after being laid off or put on furlough.
Certainly, by the last quarter of 2019, no government, business and/or individual had included in their budgets, projections or plans for 2020 “an extra” to deal with the effects of a possible global pandemic. Perhaps by that time, it was unimaginable to predict the scope and destruction that could be generated by the resurgence of a new strain of Coronavirus.
What has happened from December to date is public knowledge, it is a global affectation, with even more triggering factors in some countries than others. The truth is that COVID-19 has been and will become the most important communication crisis event in the coming decades. Its unflattering scope meets all the conditions to become the worst of the crises in today’s globalized world.
Now that a global pandemic has uprooted every facet of our lives, each of us is finding it necessary to pivot and adapt to the new ways we live, work and play. Businesses have closed their doors or lost clients and customers, and people have been laid off. Those most affected will be the most vulnerable among us – the hungry, the homeless, the sick and the elderly. While it’s imperative that brands approach messaging through a compassionate lens, we must also realize that we’re well into our “new normal,” and it’s time that we begin to look to the future.
Something new has sprouted in the world… A certain humanity to others, a new kindness to strangers, a care as to who is in need… In other words, caring about someone other than just ourselves.
It is about the new sense of unity as a “us-against-it” mentality, “it” now being COVID-19. That sense of unity has been around before, of course, but it has not been seen on this scale since World War II, a time when the war itself was the fight we were all in. Now we are all in another pot together – a fight for our collective lives.
Like billions of people around the world, I am now living through the COVID-19 global pandemic. As a full-time college student and intern, I am getting acclimated to working remotely, an unexpected and needed adjustment.
On March 12, my classes switched to distance learning, which filled my days with Zoom lectures and virtual group work. On March 18, my part-time job shut its doors until further notice, adding me to the list of 6.6 million Americans currently filing for unemployment. I am fortunate to still be able to work from home as a public relations internship at The Pollack Group, an opportunity granted to me which many students working for other companies aren’t receiving.
During this unprecedented time, a much-needed webinar was led by agency president Stefan Pollack this past Tuesday, in which he shared his thoughts and experience on the need for adopting quickly to the changed market environment due to the coronavirus pandemic. The webinar was hosted by the Los Angeles chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA-LA).
Amid the disruption that COVID-19 is wreaking lies another epidemic – a slew of cancelled meetings and business initiatives. We’re already seeing the economic effects of the virus, and they have the potential to be massive. Scores of organizations of all sizes are suspending usual operations – and cancelling meetings — and sending employees to work from home. To maintain business continuity and ensure survivability, especially for B2B organizations, work cannot just come to a halt.
Now is the time to pivot or postpone, not cancel.
I had a lot of conversations with many CEOs, managers, or managing teams across the globe in the last couple of weeks. Our dialogue has obviously intensified: the world is in crisis, and every day seems like a new battle.
Most of the companies I’ve spoken to had never gone through times like these. Even those who had were in no position to generate some crisis go-through instructions. Because this is a completely new situation. However, there’s a silver lining in all this. Everybody seems to be ready to do a sort of reset, learn from each other and spread the good deeds.
Talking with all these wonderful people – What should we do? How can we help? How’s going to be tomorrow like? What should we tell to our employees? How’s business going to be in, like, 5 months from now? – I’ve come across more on some topics than others, so here they are, shared with you, provided that they are based on quick reaction and common sense, in an exceptional situation.
By definition, a crisis is caused by a major, yet temporary change. And, while we take solace in knowing that “this too shall pass,” often times the impact of such a significant change, albeit temporary, can have long-lasting implications.
In a time where media consumption is at an unprecedented high (someone tweets about the Coronavirus every 45 milliseconds), access to real information from credible sources is more important than ever. People are looking to leaders for guidance and reassurance and more and more, they are looking to brands as well. How your business chooses to engage in the conversation today can impact how you come out on the other side tomorrow.
When it comes to communicating during a crisis, brands that are able to answer a few simple questions and align their communication strategies accordingly, will weather the storm and come out on top.
The world has changed. It is now more critical than ever to model the behaviors of your customers.
As a Behavior Designer, I’m often asked how I would apply behavior modeling in a variety of situations that have nothing to do with marketing. These questions have ranged from “How do I get my son to clean up his room?” to “How do we change the behaviors of our internal communication structure?”
Due to COVID-19, business is far from usual. It may not feel normal again for quite a while. As expected, everyone’s first concern is (and should be) the health and safety of family members, loved ones, friends and colleagues. But, a big part of that revolves around staying employed, ensuring people have jobs and are able to continue to work. Keeping a business going, retaining customers and growing your consumer base cannot be ignored. So, what is the solution? And how does Behavior Design fit in?
There is a lot that is terrible about the COVID-19 crisis. Beyond the very tragic loss of lives, the soaring historical unemployment, as well as the isolation caused by seclusion, one of the most shattering parts of this crisis is the uncertainty. There is so little about this that we can control, not only on a personal level, but also on a professional one.
For those that are essential workers on the front lines of the crisis, there is no question about how to move forward from day to day — one step in front of the other, one day at a time. I certainly can’t speak to that. By comparison, non-essential professionals in the marketing and communications world probably feel useless as well as out of place, or maybe out of control of things and, well, non-essential.
The impact of a pandemic has moved from a theoretical disruptor to an acute threat with the COVID-19 outbreak. As with all crises, preparation is key to minimizing the damage the outbreak has on your organization.
To aid in your preparations, we’re sharing a short quiz that can help identify areas your company may wish to address.
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