Google releases COVID-19 website and search, Carnival chief defends coronavirus response, and Starbucks and GameStop close their doors

Also: Google News offers ‘fact check’ section, MasterClass offers free resources, how COVID-19 is affecting marketing budgets, and more.

Good morning, PR pros:

 Google News now has a dedicated section to COVID-19 coverage, along with a “fact check “ section where you can confirm or refute possible fake news:

Image courtesy of Google News.

 It’s another reminder to help stop the spread of misinformation and assist your audiences in becoming savvy consumers of news, along with your crisis response messages.

 Here are today’s top stories:

 Google launches COVID-19 website

The tech company has published its website that touts heath information, safety and prevention tips, data, helpful resources, links to relief efforts and blog posts regarding the COVID-19 outbreak:

Image courtesy of Google.

The company has also beefed up its search results for queries relating to COVID-19.

In a blog post, Google wrote:

Now, as we continue to see people’s information needs expanding, we’re introducing a more comprehensive experience for COVID-19 in Search, providing easy access to authoritative information from health authorities alongside new data and visualizations. This new format organizes the search results page to help people easily navigate information and resources, and it will also make it possible to add more information over time as it becomes available.

In addition to links to helpful resources from national and local health authorities, people will also find a carousel of Twitter accounts from local civic organizations and health authorities to help connect them with the latest local guidance as it’s shared. We’ve also introduced a feature to surface some of the most common questions about the pandemic, with relevant snippets sourced from the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Why it’s important: Creating information and content is only one part of helping your audience access information and answer questions. Consider ways you can also curate content that already exist, such as lists of classes or free tools for your employees, videos that your clients can share, and other helpful resources.


MasterClass is offering a few virtual resources from its growing library of expert sessions.

TechCrunch reported:

More recently, however, the company added live Q&A sessions with these same stars as a member benefit, and now, for the foreseeable future, it’s opening these sessions to non-members, too. It’s the San Francisco startup’s way of making itself more accessible to a broader audience that perhaps can’t rationalize paying $90 per class or $180 for a yearly all-access pass, especially in this increasingly grim market.

The first free session streams live on Wednesday at noon PT from MasterClass’s site and will feature Chris Voss, who was once the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI. Voss had earlier created a module for MasterClass on the art of negotiation, and he’ll be talking to whomever wants to tune in with the help of a moderator who will be asking questions that have been submitted in advance by students.


A survey conducted by Econsultancy and Marketing Week revealed that the majority of marketers (63% inside the U.S.) have delayed or are currently reviewing marketing budget commitments.

Image courtesy of Econsultancy.

Though these budgeting decisions can have negative effects on organizations across the communications industry, the survey’s results also point to a few opportunities for communicators.

Econsultancy reported:

While the general consensus is that coronavirus will have a damaging impact on businesses, some are seeing the positives and potential opportunities that could arise. Despite the fact that the majority of marketers (77% in the UK and 64% in North America) predict consumer delays in major spending decisions, most also predict a rise in other areas. Ninety-one percent of UK and 87% of North American marketers predict an increase in the use of online services, for example.

Carnival chief defends COVID-19 response

The company’s chief executive, Arnold Donald, defended its crisis response in an “Axios on HBO” interview, saying “a cruise ship is not a more risky environment than being shoreside.”

His remarks are being criticized because they contradict the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guideance not to travel by cruise ship. Carnival suspended its cruise schedule five days later.

Why it matters: Contradicting health authorities sends the wrong message for an already struggling company (and industry). We don’t recommend taking this tack in your crisis communications. Instead, align your messages with health experts including the CDC and World Health Organization, and include messages about your consumers’ and employees’ health and wellbeing.



How is the coronavirus changing how PR pros are conducting influencer marketing activations? How are those kinds of campaigns changing? We caught up with some brand relations experts who shared their thoughts on the changing state of play.

Read the Q&A here.

Starbucks and GameStop shut down U.S. locations

Both chains have shut their doors to in-person sales, with certain Starbucks stores offering drive-through orders and GameStop offering e-commerce sales.

Starbucks tweeted its press release:

In a press release, GameStop wrote:


George Sherman, GameStop’s Chief Executive Officer said, “This is an unprecedented time and each day brings new information about the COVID-19 pandemic.  Our priority has been and continues to be on the well-being of our employees, customers and business partners. We have been steadfast in our adherence to CDC-guided safety and local government orders for retailers in each of our communities. As millions of Americans look to GameStop to adjust to their new normal of increased time at home, for work, learning and play, we have implemented practices to help ensure the safety and health of our employees, customers and partners.  We believe it is prudent to institute further safety protocols while meeting this increased demand through curbside pick-up.  As such, stores that remain in operation will provide only pick-up at the door or delivery to home activities to further protect our employees and customers.”


Why you should care: Though the chain’s decisions might seem identical on the surface, Starbucks has been applauded for its crisis response from the beginning, shutting stores and focusing on employee health as it tries to serve consumers and follow health authorities’ guidelines.


GameStop, on the other hand, told employees to ignore orders and continue to work amid restrictions and quarantine guidance—until recently. Unsurprisingly, the company has been heavily criticized.

Don’t wait to do the right thing—your reputation might not recover.


How are companies addressing the disruption caused by COVID-19? One example has received praise from viewers and offers lessons for communicators in these troubled times.

PR Daily Editor Ted Kitterman breaks down the video response from Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson and looks at the reasons why the video was successful for so many audiences.


 We asked what channel has been the most effective as you continue to relay important crisis responses and information amid the pandemic. More than 43% of you said Twitter and Facebook are top channels, and nearly 41% use email and direct messages to target audiences.

Interestingly, less than 11% of you are relying on your organization’s blog or newsroom, and roughly 5% are turning to social media apps such as Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok. The channel is dependent upon whom you are targeting, however, with many focusing on members of their organizations’ workforces along with their customer bases.

Liz Kamper, CBRE’s Mountain and Northwest communication specialist, uses Zoom and Microsoft Teams to quickly disseminate information to employees and internal stakeholders:

(For example, Comms Bar founder Lyndon Johnson says over-the-phone communications are his focus.)


How are you helping boost employees’ moods and productivity during the pandemic, especially as many are working from home?

Weigh in via our Twitter poll and share what you’re working on under the hashtag #DailyScoop.


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