When looking to address the coronavirus outbreak, communicators are well-served by best practices that have been in place for years.
Pitching relevant information to reporters, making sure your information is timely and accurate, and other time-honored traditions of the PR trade are even more important in a crisis.
PRSA Chair Garland Stansell shared a few thoughts with us about how PR pros can help their organizations and communities:
PR Daily: Misinformation and sensationalism have become big problems for communicators around the coronavirus. How can communicators combat the panic?
Stansell: First and foremost, it’s important for communicators themselves to remain calm and not let the wish for expediency get in the way of the need for accuracy. One way to help combat panic is to point consumers to reputable and respected sources of information. For example, there are numerous local and national agencies with experience and expertise surrounding the coronavirus and who’ve dealt with similar situations in the past. They can be relied upon to provide reliable facts and figures in a timely manner.
PR Daily: What should communicators be talking about? Share some concrete steps/actions.
Stansell: Communicators should be talking about how to keep their constituencies, both internal and external, informed and also prepared for how changing circumstances might affect them, both inside and outside of the workplace. Concrete steps and actions should include frequent reports and updates, using methods/vehicle that are deemed most appropriate and expedient for an organization’s particular needs. It’s also crucial, when talking to the press, to make sure that the information you’re presenting is timely, accurate and not superfluous to what the publication might be interested in/looking for.
PR Daily: Is there an organization/group that is doing a good job and has good resources on the coronavirus?
Stansell: The CDC website has comprehensive information that is easily navigable and frequently updated. Particularly useful is the Communication Resources section, which includes such tools as informational fact sheets and posters, explanatory videos, travel advice and information tailored to specific audiences.
PR Daily: What lessons should we take from the response to the coronavirus so far?
Stansell: Paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling, it’s important to keep your head when all about you are losing theirs. And echoing what I mentioned above, it should always be facts first, actions second.
For the latest advice on how to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, register for Ragan’s Crisis Communications Virtual Conference March 31. Attendees can get all the insights and practical tips without leaving the house.