The Temptations of the Pandemic

business public relations May 12, 2020

Turn on the radio, the TV (okay, not Netflix, TV news!), open any of your social media accounts, and you are flooded with articles and reports about the new coronavirus. It is of course a topic that is top of mind for all of us, as I am writing this at my kitchen table under "Safer at Home" orders from the Wisconsin governor. I haven't been to the grocery store in almost two weeks. My fridge and pantry have never been this empty, but at least I have enough toilet paper for another month or so...

As a PR and social media consultant, I am helping my clients navigate this time by creating messaging and content for employees and the media. Luckily all of them are considered essential businesses and can continue to operate, even if at a reduced capacity. I also help my husband run social media for his restaurant, which presents a whole other set of challenges.

The one thing all of them have in common is that we have to find a way to keep communicating and promoting our businesses in a way that is authentic and shows integrity. There is a fine line between overcommunicating and undercommunicating during a public crisis like the one we are all experiencing right now. You want to demonstrate confidence and optimism, while being respectful of the pain and suffering people are experiencing on a personal and professional level.

But the show must go on. Let's not kid ourselves, for a lot of these businesses it is a matter of survival, not just profits or losses. That means that some will be desperate and try to use the tragedy to their advantage by using people's fear to boost their business, just think of the panic about toilet paper or hand sanitizer and the inevitable price gouging. These are the temptations of the pandemic. 

It is hard to find a silver lining, but it is there. Most people and businesses are trying to do the right thing. I am thinking of one of the customers of our bistro who has so far donated $2,000 for lunches delivered to the local Salvation Army. This helps our small restaurant enormously and has helped provide much needed food for the 47 regular patrons at the lunch table. (I am still hoping that I can get the local newspaper editor to show some interest in the story because it's an amazing win-win situation! Of course, I tried...) 

The bottom line is, it's easy to control the narrative if you control your own business. But as PR pros we need the business to do the right things so we can tell the story. Don't be afraid to talk about the good you are doing, but don't play it up too much. Stay authentic and always communicate with integrity. This will do wonders for your brand, and your business, in the long run. Warren Buffet was spot on when he said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." 


Do you want to get press?

Download my FREE in-depth guide that explains the 5 simple steps to get you quoted as a design expert in notable publication like Forbes, Apartment Therapy, Better Homes & Gardens and many more.