The impact of coronavirus on social media marketing, public relations and brand marketing
As publicists, brand marketers and agency owners, many of us are not prepared for coronavirus. Most of us have never lived during a pandemic, let alone personally experienced one. This is where crisis communications training will become invaluable. We are used to helping clients with short term PR fiascos or crisis communication issues. But make no mistake—we must prepare for an ongoing crisis. This will not be a crisis that will go away any time soon. As brand marketers, don’t keep marketing with your head in the sand.
As social media marketing and PR professionals, we often plan for the unexpected. But no one could have accurately predicted or planned for the massive disruption coronavirus could have on virtually every industry worldwide. Now is the time for brands and agencies to have the tough conversations.
Where do we go next?
How will our marketing change in lieu of coronavirus?
What should agency professionals do during this time? How do you market and publicize during a pandemic?
Coronavirus effects on the Marketing & PR industry
This isn’t the time to run a scheduled social media marketing or PR campaign; strategies need to adjust.
In the agency world, how marketers handle coronavirus will separate the pros from the amateurs. Remember when everyone thought they could buy social media services for a few hundred dollars because their kid in college could do it? Now this will reset the playing field.
This will be a time when it will suddenly be glaringly obvious why certain agencies charge a premium for marketing and PR services. The bottom of the barrel marketers will keep marketing through this as if nothing is going on. Their posts will be tone-deaf. They will not pause scheduled tweets or pre-written content for campaigns and will continue to market as if we were still living in a pre-Coronavirus digital environment.
The premium agency pros, however, will know now is the time to pause and reflect. Strategy means knowing when to stay silent just as much as it means knowing what to post and when. Clients may hem and haw and ask, “What am I paying you for if you aren’t going to post anything?”
They are paying you because you know the difference between when to shout from the rooftop and when to be quiet.
Do not use this as a cheap marketing ploy to get more customers for your brand. Unless you are a medical professional, tread lightly with the content you put out. This means doing a total 360 on your social media marketing strategy. Now is not the time to share the beautiful creative you had prepared 90 days out. Save it for another day or another quarter.
Coronavirus will impact every sector and industry including marketing, public relations and social media.
Here are ten things every PR agency professional should consider a COVID19 brand quarantine:
- Marketers need to prepare for this situation and have a contingency plan for their client’s campaigns as well as their media strategy. Have the tough conversations.
- Media buying budgets could be impacted if businesses lose the money they planned to spend to place ads. Discuss this with your clients before placing any other media buys. You can’t spend money they don’t have.
- Pause scheduled tweets or any content that has been written for the campaign. It will look tone-deaf.
- Do not use this as a marketing ploy to try to get more customers. Unless you are a medical professional, tread lightly on the content you put out for consumers.
- Don’t try to newsjack as a PR hook to get increased brand mentions for coronavirus. 1 % of you will get it right, the other 99% will get it wrong and suffer irreparable brand damage. People will remember how you handle your marketing during this time. Take a strong leadership position instead of looking at this as an opportunity to get press. The risk of a negative brand association is far greater than the upside of a positive brand association. Think carefully about that before trying to newsjack.
- If you don’t have anything to contribute to the conversation, stay quiet. It is better to stay quiet than to contribute noise, misinformation or fake news. I realize clients won’t like hearing this one because they are still paying for services during this time. Strategy means knowing when to stay silent just as much as it means knowing when to post or what to post. That is part of what you are paying for. Listen to your agency.
- Focus on other services. Now is a great time to write fresh copy for a web site that has been put on the back burner. Think about other ways to add value outside of daily social media posting.
- As a brand, use your platform to share helpful information and use your thought leadership platform and authority for the greater good. Speak with conviction.
- Ramp up your customer service on social media platforms. If you are in the travel sector, now is the time people will be tweeting at your brand to get refunds for canceled travel. Make sure someone is answering these tweets and direct messages to avoid a potential firestorm.
- Do not run any paid social media ads or Google ads that run counter to the updated guidelines around coronavirus. “On Google, brands are now restricted from buying keywords sensitive events, including disease. So, for now, there are no promoted search results appearing atop vital news services reporting on coronavirus.”
Digital Marketing & PR During Coronavirus
How do we market and publicize in a post coronavirus digital media environment where every other story is about COVID19? What we can say that is helpful? Brands can’t stay silent forever, so when is a good time to inject your brand into the conversation?
We need to understand the changing needs of consumers and their emotional state of mind, and we must take that into consideration when marketing to them. If people are afraid, now is not the time to pretend they aren’t. Additionally, it is also not the time to market to a state of fear or panic. You must walk a fine line.
If you are in PR, don’t try to hijack the news as a public relations hook to get increased brand mentions. Only 1% of people will get it right while the other 99% will get it wrong and suffer irreparable brand damage. People will remember how you handle your marketing during this time. The risk of a negative brand association is far greater than the upside of a positive brand association. If you don’t have anything to contribute to the conversation, stay quiet. It is better to stay quiet than to contribute noise.
Pause your scheduled tweets. Ramp up your customer service on social media. If you are in the travel sector, people will be tweeting at your brand for refunds or cancellation policies at a higher volume. You must be prepared to service these requests with your social media team.
When will coronavirus end? Unfortunately, no one knows. Until we have an estimate, now is a great time to focus on marketing, branding or PR projects that have been put on the back burner and do not require the daily immediacy of social media posting. Here are five digital marketing and PR strategies and ideas to tackle:
SEO historical optimization: Rewrite old blog posts and update your content for answer engine optimization and updated keywords to try to appear in featured snippets.
PR materials: Is the executive bio up to date that you have been pitching to the media for the past two years? Could a fact sheet use a refresher?
Interviews: Invest in a good webcam, microphone, and lighting. Set up an in-studio environment and guide your clients through this process so they can be available to do Skype interviews from home if the media requests them. If you are asked to self-quarantine, you can still do interviews from the comfort of your own home.
Website: Everyone dreads redoing their website or thinking about their brand purpose. Now is a perfect time to think about this and take a stab at a refresh.
Organizing collateral: Have 1,000 photos from client events saved on your computer? Organize them.
MARKETING DURING CORONAVIRUS: HOW SHOULD YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY CHANGE DURING A PANDEMIC?
During a recent TV news interview, I was asked, “What is your advice to your clients – and to any of our viewers – who are using Social Media as part of their marketing strategy: business-as-usual? Or does a story like Coronavirus that “blocks-out-the-sun” dictate changing tactics? How should brands handle their social media marketing strategy during a coronavirus outbreak?”
Here are 4 marketing tactics to consider today for a crisis communications plan:
1) Pause all scheduled tweets or social media posts on third-party apps.
2) Revise your marketing communications strategy to account for the impact of coronavirus COVID19.
3) Do not put any information out unless it is from knowledgeable, credible medical experts. Fact-check all social media posts about coronavirus COVID19 before clicking post.
4) Do not use coronavirus for cheap marketing ploy tactics. We saw a well-known PR firm do this recently with a poll around Americans buying corona beer. Don’t use coronavirus to newsjack and get your brand in the news. This is NOT the time to try to sell more products, price gouge or use PR to insert yourself into the story. If you are trying to use this as an excuse to get more exposure for your company, your brand will suffer irreparable damage as well as your online reputation.
Marketing & PR in the age of coronavirus – what brands need to know
Coronavirus is creating disruption across the world and throughout every industry. As marketers and publicists, this disruption will create grave uncertainty for our jobs and the digital marketing ecosystem we are accustomed to working in.
This is not business as usual. People are afraid. If you are running a major conference that requires business travel, think long and hard about canceling it, unless you want to suffer the negative Twitter spiral like we are seeing with Expo West or SXSW. It is better to cancel early so people have time to make alternative plans.
If you do want to give back as part of a corporal social responsibility initiative, consider creating branded hand sanitizers (if some promotional companies still have them available) and give them away for free. Yes, it will cost you a few thousand dollars, but it is a nice thing to do.
Also, consider creating a social media campaign that encourages people to stay home. Italy is leading the way with this initiative with the creation of the #IStayHome social media marketing campaign, and brands could do this on a hyper-local level.
The Bottom Line: Invest time and resources in high-level strategic public relations and marketing activities. As marketers and publicists, we often say that we wish we had extra hours and if only we had more time. Well, now we do.
Let’s spend this time as effectively as possible for clients to get the most value from our services. In a social media-driven world that is dictated by the endorphin rush of on-demand marketing, this is a wakeup call and a reminder to marketers that strategy still matters.
If your brand is quarantined, spend more time on strategy and less time on using this as a quick hit PR and marketing opportunity.
A national health crisis and pandemic is not a marketing opportunity.
*This article was written by Kris Ruby of Ruby Media Group and portions of this article originally appeared as an Op-Ed on Adweek
COVID-19 Update from Ruby Media Group
PUBLIC RELATIONS STRATEGIES: MEDIA INTERVIEWS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
As an agency, we have made the decision to stop pitching doctors and medical experts for in-studio media, television or radio appearances during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many doctors have expressed hesitation about being in-studio with COVID-19 infection risks, and our agency does not want to put our medical clients or their patients at risk, so we are pitching clients for virtual interviews. We feel this is the safe and right response during a pandemic.
CREATE A STUDIO FOR INTERVIEWS AT HOME
Many newsrooms around the country are increasingly practicing social distancing. What does this mean for the PR industry, clients, media commentators and newsmakers?
If you want to do media interviews, purchase LED lighting, a good microphone, and a webcam or DSLR camera for interviews. Set up a Skype or professional Zoom account, too. This will ensure you are happy with how the interview looks regarding the production quality of the interview from your laptop or mobile phone.
The media landscape will be chaotic right now. Do not be surprised if a reporter cancels your pre-scheduled interview or is thirty minutes late for a call or misses it entirely. This will be the new norm over the next few months.
MEDIA REQUESTS DURING COVID-19
The media is in overdrive right now with an increasingly high volume of requests for doctors and medical professionals. Doctors are needed as sources/ experts now more than ever before. We will continue to send out these requests as we receive them from reporters to see if you are the right fit for what they are looking for. Do not feel obligated to respond- we don’t want the media’s timeline to add any stress to your already stressful environment right now. Respond to media requests you want to comment on and can genuinely add value to.
The majority of incoming media requests during the COVID-19 pandemic we have received are for infectious disease experts. If you are not an infectious disease expert, you may not be what the media is looking for. If you see other doctors consistently quoted in the news on coronavirus, it is most likely because they are infectious disease experts.
Ethically, we feel it is important that medical specialists in each vertical are commenting within their scope of practice.
Please understand that every week will seem like a big media week and big news week- but just because it is, doesn’t mean that you are the right person to be commenting on it.
If you are affiliated with a hospital, please check your contract with the hospital on what you are allowed to say to media outlets regarding your affiliation. For example, you cannot tell a media outlet what it is like at a hospital you are on staff at or rounding at if your hospital prohibits you from speaking with the media about your work at the hospital. Please make sure you read the contract terms carefully and update your PR firm on what the contract terms are with each hospital you are affiliated with.
While our primary goal is always to get clients’ media coverage, we take a strategic approach to media relations, which means knowing when not to talk, just as much as it means knowing when to push a message out.
Additionally, we will be encouraging reporters to call clients instead of submitting email responses for media requests. Speaking by phone with a reporter takes less time than drafting lengthy email responses. We are trying to be as mindful as possible of your busy schedule and don’t want to add anything to your plate, which is why we think asking reporters to speak with you by phone is ideal during this crisis. We don’t want to add to your stress level. Our agency will connect you with the media directly for requests by phone at a time that works for you and your schedule.
HIGH-LEVEL PR STRATEGIC CONSULTING: COVID-19 PANDEMIC
This is a perfect time for us to focus on the high- level strategic public relations goals for your medical practice. If you are finding yourself with a few extra hours because your practice has switched to telehealth services or you are working from home, please call me. This is a great time to do all of the things we have always wanted to do. Whether it is writing new copy for your web site or transcribing long-form content, this is a perfect time to do it. I am here and willing to serve you!
Patients are looking to their doctors during this time more than ever – they need help from you to navigate this crisis. If they have an emergency, they want to know you are available. They want to see some level of communication from your practice. You can continue to keep people updated with tips and content that will help them during this time even if your office is not open. This is also a great time to optimize old blog content, update keywords, and create new long-form content and blogs.
SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY DURING COVID-19
Content strategies will change to account for coronavirus. Content should be focused around helping people (and patients) navigate this crisis and pandemic. Please work with us so we know what your office is doing differently during this time. If your office has closed and wants to put out an email or social media post on your COVID-19 response, please send it to us so we can edit it. If you are offering telemedicine or new telehealth services, let’s work together to push that information out so you can keep seeing patients.
Coronavirus Misinformation Epidemic: What advice do you have for people who are watching and listening regarding consuming information they see and hear about COVID19 on social media platforms?
The media is not sensationalizing coronavirus. Reporters are putting their lives at risk by even reporting on this like I am today by being here for this segment and taking a car to do this which could have had a contaminated passenger in it. It’s easy to sit on Twitter and spout off about the media. When you are actually on the front line doing the work yourself, its a different story. We need journalists to keep reporting and showing up to work to report on coronavirus, and that will only get harder as more people stop showing up to work and start reporting only from Skype. Doctors and reporters are reporting from locations where coronavirus has been confirmed. Think about that before saying how terrible the media is.
Amazon has taken down listings for third-party products claiming to help users avoid Coronavirus. One surgical face mask manufacturer was de-listed for making what Amazon called “unapproved medical marketing claims.” Who should you believe? Is the Coronavirus pandemic a symptom of our reliance on information gathered from social media?
As you have followed the Coronavirus story, how well or misinformed do you reckon someone for-whom Social Media equals “the news” would be as this vital story unfolds?
Social media companies are racing to combat the spread of misinformation on coronavirus COVID-19 and many have partnered with health authorities to crackdown on the misinformed epidemic.
Americans are so desensitized to a sensationalized media environment that they think this is just another bad snowstorm or something that the media has hyped up, therefore, they aren’t listening or paying attention. People will not be prepared for this. People are still flying when they shouldn’t be. People need to be way more afraid than they actually are.
CORONAVIRUS COVID19 SOCIAL MEDIA MISINFORMATION: PODCAST EPISODE
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