Sean Pattwell is the founder and chief executive officer at CW8 Communications
The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken international commerce in ways we could never have anticipated before the virus took hold. The human toll is harrowing, and the subsequent economic impact has left many businesses fighting for air. The resultant economic fallout it has precipitated, which is not projected to disappear at any point on the near-term horizon, the media landscape has been dramatically upended. The impact on media coverage has been substantial: many journalists have been reassigned to cover the crisis and globally, headlines are dominated by Covid-19 coverage. While justifiable, this adds an increased level of pressure on companies in all industries to get their message out there in a clear and effective way, and in a time when expanding customer reach is more critical than ever.
Some companies also have positive stories to share, and if there was ever a time that the markets and media are hungry for a bit of good news - it's now - Powder.ae, the UAE-based skincare e-commerce site has seen a surge in demand for its self-care and wellness products; Pure Harvest Smart Farms, the UAE technology-enabled agribusiness, just closed a funding round of $20.6 million Series A together with a $100 million multi-stage investment commitment from Kuwaiti investment firm Wafra; and InstaPract HealthTech IT Solutions has partnered with a major hospital in the UAE to roll out its technology in the fight against the Coronavirus.
Why Is Public Relations Important?
Getting your message into the media is pivotal for companies in raising their brand profile, which is of course crucial to attracting investment, customers and talent. Many management consultancy firms assert that during this crisis, there is a role for companies across a variety of industries to play in mitigating threats to our economies. However, in order to propel your efforts into successful outcomes, a profile large enough to capture market share is essential. Those that succeed most in this are those that will be recognised throughout their industry, gaining a foothold in the share of voice for sector issues, which is where the crucial importance of public relations comes into play.
You may have the best product known to mankind, but if the right audiences are unaware of it, it has little chance. I strongly believe that now is a critical time for companies to revitalise their public relations (PR) strategy and I have outlined the top five PR objectives that companies should prioritise:
All companies should take this time to craft their PR Strategy. While it may not seem like a traditional consideration in times of crisis, working on a comprehensive public relations strategy will enable you to maintain viability and attract new business during and after the crisis. Businesses need to plan exactly what they want their public image to be and pay close attention to what they need to achieve to set themselves aside from their competitors: set objectives. Do you want to be featured in the Financial Times to send your message out far and wide? Or do you want your product to be showcased in a trade magazine read by your target audience? Decide on a realistic strategy early on while crafting your narrative. Utilise the time you have during this crisis to plan exactly what you want to achieve in a business sense, and then mirror this strategy with your PR plan.
2) Map Out Relevant Media
If you are a blockchain startup with a target audience in the UAE, identifying US political journalists will not serve you very well. Read strategically and read with your business in mind. Identify journalists writing about your industry or companies similar to yours. This will broaden your business horizons and help you identify what the narratives of other companies are, what is interesting to readers, what interests journalists and what tells a good story.
3) Reach Out
Once you have identified the journalists most relevant to you and your business, contact them; they might be writing a story and need an expert opinion or a comment. They might be interested in your company specifically and want to sit down with you for an interview (over Zoom, of course). Journalists are, by nature, approachable and interested in hearing about intriguing stories. Tell them yours.
4) Engage in Thought Leadership
Hone your thought leadership skills. What do you want to tell the world about your business? What are your thoughts on the industry you work in and how do you think we should tackle the challenges we are facing? If you can answer any of these questions eloquently and/or think you have something to add to the conversation, you should engage in thought leadership. Write an article or a blog, show it to colleagues or advisors for a review and post it on LinkedIn or better yet, send it to a news publication. Engaging in thought leadership is a highly fruitful method of getting your message across, increasing your personal brand and engaging your audience.
5) Plan for the Future
Achieving media attention is possible however, maintaining media traction without a PR firm can be a challenge but you can lay some important ground work without an advisor. Decide how you are going to build out your brand once relative normality resumes. If you have followed these steps, you need to plan what you are going to do next. Decide what worked best for you, where you can improve and which areas present the most prime opportunities for you and your business after the Covid-19 crisis has passed. This crisis will pass. We have faced few challenges as demanding as this, but I have full confidence that the international business community will work together to weather this storm.