“Whiplash” PR Strategy for Re-Openings and Closings

In the first weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses called upon their PR agencies to rapidly push out information about closings and reduced operations, focusing on what products and services would be offered, and how. Curbside, online and delivery options became part of a new lexicon that offered lifelines for struggling small and large businesses alike. Public relations professionals stepped up communications and pivoted quickly to address a business world where merely maintaining continuity became the number one priority.

According to a recent study conducted by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR), business leaders have been “leaning into the communication function as an essential resource to help them deal with COVID-19.  In fact, 81% of respondents said the communication function is important or very important to their company’s COVID-19 response.

When businesses began to re-open, PR pros again took the lead to let customers and clients know their clients’ status, which often changed daily. Press releases, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram lit up the internet with welcome news.  Supporting businesses in a “new normal,” the public relations world itself has a its own brave new world, with ongoing reliance on Zoom media interviews and WFH brainstorms and remote client meetings.

Now, just weeks after public relations and marketing teams started to re-launch the robust campaigns that COVID-19 put on pause, they are helping some B2C clients face yet another challenge. Almost as quickly as they re-opened, businesses in several states are again shutting down or limiting hours and access.

Public relations professionals are uniquely qualified to ride these waves of Coronavirus, because pivoting is what we do best. We are often called upon to jump in and provide immediate counsel and execute campaigns around fast-breaking news, as well as communicate clients’ actions and re-actions literally news-cycle by news-cycle.   In fact, the public relations toolbox itself is designed for “waves” of business activity, encompassing openings, launches, expansions, re-brands and sadly, closures as well.

As economic uncertainties become more pronounced, the one certainty is that PR pros can help manage the messaging that will keep businesses viable for a hopeful future when the “whiplash” is finally over.