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How To Approach PR During Sensitive Times  

PR sensitive times

In recent days, a popular meme listed the biggest challenges US millennials have faced before turning 40 - two global recessions, a terrorist attack, a pandemic, a civil rights movement and now, the possibility of World War III. Clearly, there are several generations engulfed in what the world around them is facing, but it is this one generation that has not yet been exposed to such several calamities in their short lifetimes, that needs to reconsider the layers of sensitivities needed to handle conversations around them.

Brands trying to communicate in the middle of a world crisis have to evaluate their every move. 

We often find companies asking the following: 
   “Can we be a part of this conversation?” 
    “What should we be saying” 
    “What is the appropriate balance of acknowledgement and promotion?” 
    “Should we stay silent?” 
    “What do we do now?”  
 
There are fine lines to consider when answering these questions. While some companies choose to limit outgoing communication and essentially “freeze” them, others choose to go into overdrive and send out blast emails every hour on the hour. To help figure out a balance and approach that will work well for a brand during tense times, here are some key guidelines: 
 

Stay transparent and true to your voice. Nothing makes an audience feel more isolated and disconnected from a brand than generic ‘marketing speak’.  

Be sensitive. While you may have relevant ties to the issue at hand, do communicate with heart and sincerity, rather than promotion. 

Be helpful and understand the unique role your brand plays in consumers’ lives. Consider if what you are saying is relevant to the issue at hand and what your audience is experiencing. Provide value to the conversation. 

Avoid tone deaf responses through authenticity. Focus on how your brand can offer help or sympathy and avoid direct discussion of products in the process. 

Don’t oversaturate messaging with commentary on the issue at hand, especially if your company doesn’t have a tie to it. This can come across as ingenuine and opportunistic in the wrong way.  

Be thoughtful before you speak. While you may want to keep messaging light and maybe even inspiring during tragic times, there is no room for jokes or puns. 

Evaluate when a brand should not participate in commenting on sensitive events. In a world of constant connectivity, ignoring the situation could potentially be detrimental to your brand. To best connect with audiences, listen, empathize, and adapt. While some companies may not want to involve themselves in a political topic, or take a stance on something that is controversial, remaining silent may not be an option and can seriously damage a brand’s perception in the long run if, as a result, people deem the company uncaring. 

READ MORE: Brand Value In A Post-Pandemic World

The most important thing to keep in mind is that audiences will remember how a brand made them feel during a time of crisis. A prime example of this is Target’s employee response during the pandemic. The company paired new safety measures and guidelines with enhanced benefits to ensure their team knew how pivotal they were to serving American families during a crisis and communicated that it was the company’s mission to support them during the pandemic.

Brands can, and should, continue connecting with their audiences, but may have to shift from operating as though business is normal to a changed status. While you don’t need to have a solution to every problem, communicating that you are there, and care, can set your brand apart during times like these.

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