Many of us remember the post-9/11 shutdown, particularly those of us who were living in Washington, D.C. or New York City. This is completely different.
There is no set end date on our current shutdown. Numbers are scary, people are worried, and businesses are closing.
For those fortunate enough to be working through this crisis, it’s a period of change and readjustment. Our daily routines have been upset. Instead of deciding what suit I should wear to a meeting, I have to decide when—if ever—I will trim my beard again.
If you’ve been on LinkedIn during the crisis, you’ve seen how many companies are struggling to keep up with the news and appropriate tone. Just about everything feels trivial unless you’re promoting a service or technology that directly helps people right now. Particularly when it comes to media coverage, there is little attention being paid to anything unrelated to COVID-19, and rightfully so. Your customers, both current and future, likely have far more pressing concerns than what you’re selling, unless it’s food or technology to help you work from home.
Now, active marketing campaigns and media pitching are impacted and require a more deliberate, selective approach. You might have a new solution or initiative that is ready to launch but is temporarily on hold.
Regardless, there is still plenty to do. There will be a return to an open market in the future, so the goal now is to take advantage of this window and turn it into a positive for your company.
Here are four things every marketing and PR pro can focus on:
How many times have you scrambled to finish up an award nomination because everyone was too busy to focus on it before the deadline arrived? This has been a constant source of angst during my career, both in in-house and agency roles.
Despite the onslaught of coronavirus, awards will not be going anywhere. Though deadlines might get moved and live events celebrating winners might shift, the awards themselves are going to remain alive.
Take this time to source the information you need and get ahead of awards through the end of year. There are awards coming up in the second half of the year that you know about and can figure out what info is needed based on the previous year’s nominations.
2. Content development
In normal times, developing thought leadership content can be pushed aside for more pressing matters, whether that’s events, media interviews or sales collateral. As with awards, this is a moment to engage your subject matter experts and gather a collection of thought leadership ideas.
Whether that’s a media op-ed, a white paper, blog posts, or graphics for social media, there is a wide range of potential for companies now that many people will have more free time from a lack of in-person meetings and live events. Even though this content might not be needed or desired from a promotion standpoint until the summer or fall, having it ready will remove an item from your to-do list when life starts to return to normal and the rate of business activities jumps dramatically.
Every company does research. However, it’s tough to budget for and prioritize research during normal business hours, when so many daily items seem to take precedence.
This is the opportunity to have staff, especially those most impacted by shutdowns, focus on research. With some guidance, anyone can do research—and anyone can make an impact. Identify members on your team that might be short of work in the interim (i.e. staff members who focus on live events) and point them to completing research that will inform your marketing and public relations activities for the future.
4. Get creative
Even beyond the standard work hours, we are largely confined to our homes with our family. We are alone with our thoughts, probably far more than any of us have ever wanted. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Encourage everyone on your team to think creatively about their roles, about campaigns and about media narratives. What could you be doing better? What could you be doing differently?
These are the questions that we always want to ask, but rarely have the time to focus answering during the madness of daily life. If Shakespeare could write multiple plays, including King Lear and MacBeth, during the bubonic plague centuries ago, I’m sure our best and brightest marketing and PR pros can figure out a better way to do things.
Let your mind wander. It’s one way to stay healthy and focused, as we work through this crisis together.
Sean O’Leary is a vice president for Susan Davis International.