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Thursday, May 19, 2022

A Guide to the Best Social Media and PR Practices in the Time of Covid-19

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As the world continues to search for ways to beat Covid-19, marketers and entrepreneurs struggle to ensure the future of their businesses. And for the most part, it hasn’t been easy. Week in and week out, more and more people, including many Americans, find themselves reluctantly dropping support for—and criticizing—brands and personalities for their seemingly tone-deaf reaction to this pandemic.

At a time when 90% of interactions between people and businesses happen online, how do you make sure that the conversations you strike with your fans do not trigger a landslide of negative response whilst remaining true to the essence of your brand?

Weeks of research, social listening and observation allowed us to come up with a guideline that any company can use to not just maintain the health of their brand online, but also to serve as purveyors of positive change. And what’s interesting about it is that most of the learnings we got from this study point towards a single principle that is as innate to society as the world itself—and that is being human.

1.     Listen to understand. It’s easy to come across as apathetic when a brand that does not understand the day to day situation of people and how they are feeling, especially with all the craziness happening around them. Utilize social listening to have a profound understanding of the challenges and sentiments of the people you want to talk to. You can even go further and ask for the opinion of influencers you trust and regularly work with. By this time, they will also have a good understanding of the mood of people based on their own interactions with fans. Use all of this information as a compass for when you’re planning your next content or PR activity so as to avoid getting any backlash.

2.     Don’t let business objectives dictate what you say or do. We are at a time when people are relying on brands and personalities not just to distract them from the gloom and doom of the pandemic, but also to serve as everyone’s champion—businesses but human; aspirational but not indifferent. And to be just this, what you need is sincerity. Start internally. Take care of your people. Make sure they are well and safe and happy. This is very essential because regardless how wonderful of a job your PR and social media team is doing, if your own employees start talking poorly about you, you can expect negative publicity to follow.

When you craft your messages, do not allow yourself to, in any way, undermine the disaster happening around you. Include it in your narrative and explain clearly why you are taking the actions you’re taking during this crisis.

3.     There is no immediate need to do anything. The world anxious because of this pandemic and for some businesses, this best action to take right now is to not act at all. If you cannot provide assistance to anyone right now, if your business’ nature is not in a position to be of significant use to people (food, essential clothing, cleaning, etc.), then pause. There is no need to force anything. Understand that people hate pretentious brands as much as tone-deaf ones and launching initiatives that gloss over the situation can create some serious long-term damages.

4.     Be brave and creative. Today’s society favors the brave, and this remains true even in the midst of this pandemic. In other countries, brands are finding themselves unexpectedly recruiting new fans and creating an army of promoters and defenders by simply standing up for what they think is right—but finding creative ways to express their feelings. In cases like this, the brand becomes the voice of the people, and the people become believers of the brand. This is very tricky though and will require a certain level of cleverness, but if done properly can prove to be very beneficial.

5.     Steer clear of toxic positivity. Yes, promote a mindset that chooses to focus on the good things and encourage people to keep moving forward, but do not do so in the expense of the invalidating people’s emotions. Keep in mind that people are anxious and scared. They don’t need someone telling them to “just be positive”. They need someone who will tell them that they are strong and that they can get through this if we all work together.

6.     Apologize if you must. It happens—sometimes regardless of how thoroughly you’ve done your job, one small mistake can escalate and snowball into frenzy. If this happens, the best thing to do is own up to your mistake and apologize. Never fall into the trap of issuing non-apologies or shifting blames. Just say you’re sorry. You’d be surprised how quickly people forgive those who ask for it.  

The internet, in its current state, is a chaotic place where thousands—if not millions—of battles are fought every minute. It’s important for marketers to tread carefully, but not let over cautiousness get the best of them. Remember, when in doubt, just ask yourself what is the most human thing to do or say given all the information you know and the resources you have. Be clear, be strategic, but more importantly, be sincere, be kind.

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