by Monica Bishop Gallaher

April 22, 2020

I was in third grade when 9/11 rocked our country, and my vivid memories of that day will always be with me. But the COVID-19 pandemic is the first national crisis I have experienced firsthand. I’m employed, living far from family, and the lessons I’ve learned in the past several weeks can’t be found in any crisis PR manual.


No one could have anticipated the magnitude of shock coronavirus has caused. The ripple effects have left almost every industry struggling to breathe and respond instead of prepare, marketing and public relations included. For our clients at Deeter Gallaher Group, we have plans in place for potential crisis scenarios, but a global pandemic that brings system-wide devastation wasn’t one of our crisis scenarios.


As we continue to inform our clients and communities, here are 5 PR lessons I have learned in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic:


  1. Don’t go dark

You don’t need to be directly tied to COVID-19 to understand what is going on. Everyone is influenced in one way or another, and brands need to acknowledge the issue both internally with their teams and publicly with their customers and online audience. 


Emails, text messages, newsletters, social media posts, website updates—electronic means of communication are plentiful.  Open lines of communication early to demonstrate your confidence, compassion, and consistency.


  1. Your people are your greatest asset

The health and well-being of your customers and teams should be number one on your list of brand responsibilities. It is critical to follow the government-issued health protocols and to share them with your audiences. What do your people need? If you have to close your doors, what will you do to make sure your employees are taken care of during a pause in business? If you are an essential business and need to stay open, how are you going to ensure the well-being of your team and customers while they work in possible at-risk environments? People before product is crucial!


  1. Honesty and transparency equals success

If you are saying one thing while doing another, sooner or later your audiences will find out. Be truthful in your messaging and up-front about ongoing operations. This is a time when your employees are looking for your leadership more than ever, and clients are relying on your expertise and services—make sure you deliver. As you manage your messaging and brand voice, offer empathy and solutions for how the crisis is impacting your audiences and how you’ll come out of it stronger together.


  1. Step outside your norm

There is no playbook on how to handle the physical, mental, emotional, and economic impact of a worldwide health epidemic. We all are learning as we go. This is a good opportunity for your brand to switch things up while still staying true to your mission and voice. Sharing health and home tips not part of your social media strategy? If it makes sense, give it a try! Share valuable tips from the CDC and state health departments, offer ideas for how to stay active while at home, share recipe inspiration to boost your workers’ morale. Encourage two-way conversations with your customers. If newsletters, ZOOM webinars, or LIVE IG Stories aren’t part of your marketing plan, branch out and give it a go!


  1. Be a community champion

It can be as easy as shouting out your favorite neighborhood coffee shop offering curbside pick-up, or as generous as purchasing lunch for your local hospital health care heroes. However you decide, show your audience that you are here to help, your brand is listening, and your business genuinely cares about the health, safety, and greater good of your neighbors.


Have you noticed a stand-out brand really knocking it out of the park during #COVID19? I’d love to check them out! Send me an email at mbishop@deetergallahergroup.com.

Media Public Relations Content Marketing Brand Strategy/Awareness Social Media Strategy