PR for Start-Ups in the time of Covid-19
3 Sep 2020
Businesses across the world have changed dramatically in the past few months after countries implemented necessary quarantines and social distancing practices to contain the pandemic. It will not be wrong to say that countries reliant on tourism, travel hospitality, and entertainment for their growth are experiencing large disruptions. However, even after the setbacks, we are confident that the cure for Covid-19 (and vaccines) is not far away.
Due to the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, many companies have withdrawn PR and marketing activities, due to the declined consumption of newspapers and other print forms of media. Even though WHO guidelines explicitly mention that there is no chance of contracting the virus from printed newspapers, people seem to have become reluctant, citing safety issues.
With companies putting PR partnerships on hold until the lockdown is called off, the question that arises here is ‘Is it even necessary for brands to continue communication even during the pandemic’?
As we all know that brand recall is one of the factors that lie at the top of the marketing funnel and it offers an edge over the competitor’s brand while making an actual purchase decision. Brand recall is important when the situation is normal and is even more crucial when in crisis. Continuous communication and engagement with the target audience and stakeholders is always the key, and PR plays an essential part in this.
“In a downturn, aggressive PR and communications strategy is the key,” once said, Doug Leone, VC, Sequoia Capital. A good PR strategy can help brands glide through this difficult situation, as PR is about enhancing and maintaining a good public image. During such time, trust-building and motivational communication from the brand towards their audience creates a positive and reliable image of the brand. This could possibly result in customers trusting the brand blindly when the situation gets better.
While biggies have taken a back seat by shelving PR and marketing activities at the moment, this can be an opportunity for start-ups to make an impression. It is recommended that start-ups indulge in a well thought out PR strategy, which in turn can help carve a differentiated positioning and increase brand awareness.
How to make an effective PR plan during these unprecedented times?
Communicate regularly and responsibly: It is important that brands show compassion and concern towards their customer. The messaging across all communication should reiterate the fact that the company stands with their customers. Apart from external stakeholders, companies and their leadership should engage and communicate regularly with their employees as well to create a sense of security.
Transparency is the key: It is crucial for start-ups or any brand to not hide any kind of information such as the layoffs of a large number of employees. However, while communicating this news, companies should focus on talking about the positive aspects of such decisions such as recognising top performers and providing pay hikes or making announcements around a product or raising funds, etc. Companies like Airbnb and Uber are classic examples of how start-ups/brands can be transparent during these tough times.
Content that reflects that you ‘care’: We all know that content is king. Hence, the communication team should create media stories that clearly communicate the message that the company cares. This can be done by simply sharing how the employees have sailed through this hardship and share experiences about working from home, etc. This will help create a positive brand image.
Make relevant and issue focused announcements: During this pandemic, announcements should be made in sync with top issues like coronavirus. Announcements need to be compassionate and sympathetic in tune with what is needed to fight the pandemic, or about solutions that can help customers during this time.
Partner with a professional communication agency: As mentioned earlier, a well-thought-out PR strategy can keep the boat floating during this time. Leading PR agencies like Star Squared PR and others that have experience in working with start-ups can help in sailing through these difficult times while maintaining a positive image.
With no incoming revenue and sales being impacted, cutting down on marketing activities has become the first thing to do during this time. As CBSMarketwatch puts it, “Historically, PR, Marketing and Advertising budgets are the first to be cut, however, that could be one of the first mistakes a business makes in an economic crisis.” However, it is suggested that brands continue PR engagement, as its costs are just a fraction of the entire marketing budget, and gets similar brand exposure if not more. Being one of the leading PR agencies in Mumbai Star Squared PR has been at the forefront of this journey in supporting startups for a while now.
Santoshini Tudu is the Sr Account Manager at Star Squared PR. She is a communication professional with over 4 years of experience. A post graduate from Indian Institute of Mass Communication specialising in Advertising and Public Relations.