I was speaking at the Business Women Scotland event last week and I was asked to speak about public relations during COVID.
Having held many SME business webinars over the last twelve months, I collected the most common questions from SMEs during that time and then gave my top ten tips.
Most common questions from SMEs during the pandemic:
- When will things go back to the way they were?
- Should we still be proactively selling?
- How do I change my business model now things have changed?
- How can I still engage my team when we’re all working from home?
- How can I still be a good leader and command respect?
- I heard X and now I’m worried and panicking. How can I deal with this?
- What are the key changes I need to make to succeed?
- What ‘can’ I invest in?
- How will this PLUS Brexit affect me?
- I’m concerned about the wellbeing of my team. What can I do?
My top ten PR and communication tips for SMEs during a crisis like COVID:
- Assess your current scenario and do a risk assessment. Then, do some scenario planning > ‘If this, then that’
- Don’t stop communicating. Silence means people don’t know what you’re doing and will draw their own conclusions. Communicate consistently, clearly and transparently. People will remember how you acted during a crisis. Always remember to follow up on your words with action.
- A lot has changed. Little has stayed the same. Things won’t go back to normal. People’s buying behaviours have changed and people will be told to learn to live with COVID. So, what does that mean to you? How can your business operate and still have great relationships and build trust with your stakeholders?
- Is your business still relevant? Is your model sustainable? Is now perhaps an opportunity to re-evaluate your purpose and values? Consumers are now heavily invested in businesses which do good things. As we talk about relaunching out of lockdown, perhaps this is the biggest opportunity you’ll ever have to make the changes for maximum impact and little disruption? Stakeholder research is a key activity when you don’t know the answer.
- Your team has gone through a very quick and radical change from what they are used to in terms of working environment and the culture they experience on a daily basis. Have you asked them how they feel? Make sure, as a leader, you show up, you have one-to-ones, you address any concerns, you plan for the future, you include them where possible. They are your biggest asset. They need to be front and centre of your business.
- Don’t be a leader who ‘commands respect’ – be a leader who genuinely cares. Those leaders are the ones who attract and retain talent, whether it’s the team or suppliers.
- Misinformation is one of the biggest threats to society, as governments plant lies, the media publishes fake news and society shares it without even checking facts. Always check your facts before stating anything, sharing anything or calling something out.
- Always act with integrity as it’s also your own reputation at steak
- Think of public relations as building relationships to build trust – once you’ve got trust, you have loyalty
- And finally, embrace digital transformation as an accelerant, solution and an investment