During the period of crisis, people find information vetted by a third party more reassuring
By Akshaara Lalwani
A few short months into 2020, and the world has completely changed in terms of the way we interact, socialise and engage with others. The COVID-19 pandemic has struck nations worldwide, leading to every government announcing drastic measures of quarantining, social distancing and self-isolation to combat it. This has led to an almost overnight change in the way the world functions and businesses have had to make significant changes to adjust to it.
In these uncertain times, any missteps in communications done by brands can result in unpleasant consequences. There are tensions rising among many due to the current circumstances, which is why brands need to be extremely careful with the information and messaging they put out on public platforms. To this extent, all brands are now in crisis mode and planning their way forward accordingly. At this time, special focus needs to be placed on the information given out on public platforms, as weak, or cracked communication processes lead to an increased state of turmoil and exacerbate the losses, in a manner replicating a domino effect of destruction.
This is where the role of PR (Public Relations) management shines through. PR professionals work in message shaping for a variety of functions like communications, community relations, crisis management, reputation building, customer relations, employee relations, government affairs, investor relations and industry relations. As this is a field concerned with enhancing and maintaining public image, good PR can help you navigate through these delicate situations. You can say that it will successfully guide a bull out of a china shop with minimum damage.
One might argue the effectiveness between advertising and PR. Advertising and PR are similar in the way that both convey a message to their clients and target audience. However, they convey that message differently in using varied strategies and tactics. But as Richard Branson said, “Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.” When putting out a message through advertisements, it comes across clearly as a sales pitch. But PR is similar to a third party endorsement, as it puts key messaging out through a variety of media outlets – traditional and unconventional.
When the media tells you about a product, talks about an organisation or features a service on their programme, your customer is more likely to take notice. It’s a proven fact that consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on third party endorsement than an advertisement, which can also be seen by the meteoric growth of influencer marketing. And in times like these, it has become even more crucial for companies to evaluate their communication to influence goodwill from all their stakeholders – internal and external.
Similarly, during the period of crisis, people find information vetted by a third party more reassuring. PR has other advantages that make it a crucial investment for companies during such times. It is more credible, has a wider reach, is more personal and takes a more active role in communication. By monitoring how people perceive the business, PR can help shift it to their advantage with strategically placed information and quick response, to avoid potential disasters. This helps businesses maintain transparency in communication, which has become a necessary method of promoting goodwill.
The author is CEO and founder of Communicate India.