With virtually every facet of our lives currently up-ended by the coronavirus, PR and marketing teams across the UK have been forced to adapt and shift their priorities almost as rapidly as this pandemic has evolved.

Indeed, if we look at the Edelman’s Trust Barometer Special Report for the Coronavirus Pandemic, which polled over 12,000 people from the world’s leading economies, nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of consumers said how brands respond to the pandemic will have a ‘huge impact’ on their likelihood to buy their products.

Public Interest Communications

The most successful examples of PR done well in the current climate are where firms have recognised the critical role they play in public interest communications. This is providing communications that could help to prevent the spread of the virus by clearly relaying vital information early, often and directly to consumers.

Keeping the public fully informed on how your business is adapting and responding to the coronavirus crisis is critical to maintaining positive brand awareness.

Take Morrisons, for instance, which recently became the first major supermarket to launch a service allowing elderly or vulnerable shoppers to place orders over the phone, cutting out the hassle of online shopping. This follows on from other supermarket initiatives such as dedicated shopping hours for NHS and care workers, reinforced by advertising campaigns across all major broadcasting channels.

Another notable example is the swift action taken by Britain’s largest housebuilders including CALA Homes, Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments in shutting their construction sites despite the government exempting them from the lockdown restrictions. Demonstrating that the health and safety of its employees comes first, even if it means suffering big financial losses, will no doubt go a long way in earning or keeping the trust of the communities in which they build new homes.

Community CSR

From Dyson switching its manufacturing to much-needed ventilators, to Whitbread, the owner of the Premier Inn hotel chain, providing rooms to key workers, the heightened Coronavirus climate has evoked an admirable wartime ‘Blitz spirit’ among British businesses. Under the sentiment that ‘we’re all in this together’, rightfully brands are expected to ‘do their bit’ in helping consumers, communities and the nation cope with the stark challenges this pandemic continues to present.

Those firms that are getting this right are authentic, responsible and generous in investing time and money in new corporate and social responsibility (CSR) initiatives that truly seek to address the mounting consequences of this deadly virus. And with more people than ever before tuning into the news, almost on an hourly basis, keeping the public fully informed of changes to how your business is behaving and operating is critical to maintaining positive brand awareness.

Relevant Products and Services

Finally, such a time of national emergency dictates that brands should shift their focus from selling to helping their customers solve problems instead. At Whistle, one of our clients, a prominent name in health and safety, was keen to help its customers – many of which are large corporates in sectors that have overhauled or shutdown their operations virtually overnight.

Recognising the impact the fast-changing situation was having on business continuity, the company created a free-to-download emergency response pack for struggling businesses. When the launch of the new pack was announced in the media and on social, it quickly became the company’s most downloaded resource to date – showing that there’s still a place for promotion of relevant products and services.

In summary, it may be tempting to put a halt on all external communications during what will no doubt be a prolonged period of disruption and uncertainty. However, as recent weeks have shown, having a communications strategy centred on emotion, compassion and facts will help to reinforce brand loyalty and drive future sales – ultimately ensuring that firms are well-positioned to resume ‘business as usual’ in a post-coronavirus world.

Monira Matin is Senior Account Manager at Whistle PR which offers a range of integrated communications services including strategic consultancy, PR, social media, community engagement, internal communications and issues management. For further information, please email info@whistlepr.co.uk or contact us here.