• Dialogue Communications

Should we put public relations on hold during COVID-19?

COVID-19 has taken its heavy toll. This unprecedented event has pushed businesses and public-sector organizations to enforce “working from home” policies, making offline activities bound for limitations. Companies of the hardest hit industries are struggling to keep the business running. Numerous hotels are forced to close down as occupancy rates plunge, many restaurants have gone belly up as a result of the temporary closure of several shopping malls, ticket sales for concerts, movies, and other most anticipated events are bracing for impact, meanwhile airlines are falling off a cliff – only within weeks. At this moment of adversity, countless business owners are being forced to sit idle with no clue of what best strategy that needs to be executed in this uncertainty while toughest decisions made by them are in dire need of the righteous cause.

Responding to the impact of COVID-19 to the business, governments around the world are phasing billions to trillions of dollars as their stimulus or relief packages for many businesses to rebound. Yet, returning to business after COVID-19 idle is imaginably hard especially for those who are pausing the activities of communicating with the public. We all agree that to run the tight ship is the best strategy to keep the operations on deck. However, communications is one essential that should not be on hold or even cut-out; moreover, when we are in crisis. 

Building a good company’s reputation to the public eyes is not an overnight effort; hence pausing the communication efforts will certainly drag the company under the radar especially nowadays where information is flooding the consumer screen. Needless to say, keeping the communication efforts going by re-strategizing the plan prior to the current circumstances is considered the most feasible move for the company. Through the right strategy switch, communications serves the value to generate more stakeholder buy-in, and in some cases shareholder support and consumer loyalty.  

In this time of being, few companies are playing their cards to strengthen their industry leaderships by attaching the emotion to the campaign. Through the right approach, it can successfully construct stakeholder’s preference even better than before. In order to do this, public relations is the one that needs to be put in play. 

Maintaining media relations, thought leadership building, and positive stories disseminations to media are the things that public relations usually do in order to reach out to the government, consumer, and other shareholders. However, under the circumstances, many companies have raised some hesitation to their internal communications team or public relations agency of whether or not those activities can still be done or all of the agenda should be put on hold. 

In the context of creativity and the extended team, public relations agency benefits the client by generating more fresh concepts to the table as well as suitable campaign ideas at any situations. As an agile public relations agency, we will always look for the silver-lining which makes our agency very resourceful in providing viable solutions in this time of crisis. This would also mean that those range of offline activities could be wrapped to a whole new plan and execution by making the use of technology.

Just recently, we, at Dialogue Communications, held a press conference for one of our clients, Temata Studios, a production house and visual creative, to introduce the cast and crew of one of their exciting upcoming movie projects, KADET 1947. The movie itself was planned to premiere in August 2020, where the press conference is also planned to be conducted around that time. But, unfortunately, the date has been changed due to COVID-19. In order to still keep the momentum of national independence celebration to the movie, we were embedding the stay-at-home emotion #BersamaJagaIndonesia as the main message of the cast's introduction in the press conference.   

The press conference was conducted through a virtual conference, where the spokespersons and media are gathered in ZOOM Meeting. Everything was done just like a normal press conference, the only thing different was that the platform used was not quite the usual set up. 

Will the media be keen on this? Are we able to reach out to the media using this platform? Could we get our messages across? Is this going to work? How do we properly conduct the press conference?

We, then, had quite unexpected turns of events that every question we had at that time were finally answered by having quite a lot of media attendance and a number of publications to our favor. On that note, this is telling us that the result we got from holding the press conference using a media platform has shown the same impact with that of an offline press conference. Despite the distance that kept our client and the media apart, we did play the significant role of conducting the most conducive conference. In the manner of agility, we turned our team into a bunch of tech geeks so they could get the hang of the ZOOM’s feature by having decent prep up multiple times to prevent any glitches that might occur during the press conference.

That is how we have successfully delivered the message as well as createdthe dynamic interaction between the client and the media through 2-ways communication and idyllic visual aid. 

It may require more human power to run the press conference smoothly, but it is not something impossible to be done. Just like in handling crisis situations, there are things that we need to improvise while keeping our strategy intact to get the desired results. This also applies to any other offline activities that public relations agencies usually come to terms with, be it exclusive interviews, workshops, media briefing, and many other activities.

Now, we have come to realize that any businesses that we usually do offline could as well be done through online. With the same flow as offline, we are able to get same amount of interest, same result, and the same feedback from the media. With this in our grasp, we can and should keep moving forward.

As of now, getting the job done online is the best available option to accommodate a company's best interest and share its great story to inspire until everything is resumed to normal. 

The Takeaways:

During this stay at home period, we believe that everyone has excelled from not-tech-savvy level which means conducting virtual conferences is no longer a problem. This situation brings another challenge to public relations executives both internal team and agencies on how to conduct and deliver the best virtual conference experience possible. Hence, beside the skillset of crafting the message, it is also of paramount importance to take “note to self’ that we should critically familiarize ourselves with the inner-workings of video-conference tech from now on because that is what will distinguish us (as communication expert) from other. 

Written by: Jonathan Cohen

It doesn't come to our surprise when there is plenty of company are holding its communications initiative amidst the pandemic crisis that hit us all recently. However, it is safe to say that we - as public relations agency - also appraise businesses that maintain their communications, even more, stronger if not being over-communicated to stay relevant to their market. To provide you with a well-rounded arsenal should you decided to come back stronger, drop us your email or visit us here!