COVID-19 crisis puts PR in the spotlight

COVID-19 has hammered the economy into the ground and many organisations’ budgets are under pressure to the point of being sliced within a hair’s width of operative.

At More Fire PR we like to focus on the positive and work with clients who have a similar mindset. That said, it’s worth noting there are ways and means of refocusing your communication efforts that can either benefit or seriously harm your organisation.

Who needs public relations – it’s just fluff and spin – right? Not if it’s done properly folks. There are few organisations that actively choose not to communicate with their existing or prospective clients and other stakeholders, particularly during times of hardship or crisis when maintaining a competitive edge can mean the difference between organisational success or annihilation.

Here follows a brief summary of some of the worst ways to save money by undertaking PR cutbacks:

1. Never do any PR

Effective PR is based in fact and plays an important part in influencing and delivering strategic goals. Its activities include reputation, profile raising, (genuine) engagement with the right connections, and helping dispel incorrect perceptions (or outright lies) about a company, group, product or service. Oh, and having a compelling story to tell is a pretty important part of the process too.

2. Withdraw any PR activities that cost too much

Remember - investing in PR is relative. If a PR activity results in a demonstable ‘Return On Investment’ then removing this opportunity is likely to cost your organisation dearly in the long-term.

The same principal applies to hacking back equally across all of your communication activities. PR expenditure should be judged on target audience impact and achievement against organisational objectives. Cuts should not be made even-handedly just because it feels like the ‘fair’ thing to do.

Today’s 24 hour news machine means a proactive opportunity or response to a crisis can’t, and won’t, wait until you’re good and ready. If you don’t speak to the issue, it’s a sure bet someone else will quickly fill any high-profile void requiring a comment.

3. Don’t train media spokespeople, just wing it!

Spokespeople or written commentators should ideally be experts in their field or, if a crisis arises, leaders at the highest level. They should be trained and supported in expecting the unexpected; handling difficult questions, and communicating in an accurate, informative and appropriately serious way.

They will represent your brand to audiences who matter and so should reflect your core values in their tone and presentation. Never put forward a junior representative to take the flak, it suggests you are hiding or just don’t care.

4. Just deliver press releases

Each communication circumstance is different. Some are better suited to news releases, others to one-to-one meetings, telephone calls, staff briefings, social media, notices, events or conferences, interviews, photo calls, stunts… and so on. Don’t limit communications to one tried and tested method, and always consider your audiences and how they prefer to receive information.

A great way to achieve an instant PR fail is to continue doing everything you usually do, but with cheaper people.

5. Get rid of the best, hire the rest

Complete the well-worn phrase “you pay peanuts, you get….[desperately struggling, out of their depth people?]”

Making experienced and highly-qualified staff redundant, only to replace them with (sometimes) younger, and almost certainly cheaper workers is illegal, so expect to be punished if you do this. It also provides results you’d likely expect from such a move. Value your best communicators. Then recognise, highlight and champion their achievements.

Mark Ferguson is Director of More Fire PR Ltd.

Picture by phanlop88 courtesy of