Two years ago, I had just joined N6A and moved to New York City to start the next phase of my PR career. I was excited to work with new and exciting clients, collaborate with my new coworkers and live out my dream of becoming a New Yorker. Then, murmurings of a mysterious new virus became too loud to ignore and, after three weeks in my new office, the shutdowns began. I, along with the rest of the world, entered our new, difficult reality.In addition to the personal challenges and fears that the onset of the pandemic made us reckon with, we as PR professionals had to quickly update our clients’ communication strategies to not only address the issues the coronavirus was forcing all industries to face, but to also find their place in the conversation.
So how did we do it? I can tell you it wasn’t easy. In fact, I have never felt more challenged and afraid professionally. With marketing budgets on the chopping block, it was more critical than ever to drive business outcomes for our clients.
To put it succinctly, we adapted. We had to move away from the traditional methods of promoting our clients’ successes and instead laser-focus our efforts on providing much needed strategy and insight to our media partners, who were under incredible stress. Because of the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, we had to be hypersensitive to the ever-changing news cycle and help our clients quickly serve up knowledge that peers within their industry could use. We had to build a new way of doing PR, founded on the concept of strategic elasticity.
Here’s how strategic elasticity can redefine your communications strategy.
Be hypersensitive to the news cycle.
The world is undergoing one of the most transformative periods in recent history, and it isn’t slowing down. The way people live and companies do business is changing daily. Things that were thought to be true yesterday might be proven wrong today, and everyone is constantly playing catch up. If you want to ensure your business stays relevant, follow the news constantly for relevant micro moments and secure your place in the narrative.
Become an educator, not a promoter.
Uncertainty is the “new normal” as the pandemic continues to complicate business forecasting across all industries. The media and their audiences are in dire need of experts who can shed light on what’s happening on the ground and who can provide advice on how to tackle the challenges presented. Smaller news items or overt self-promotion is valued less and less, and the best way to generate media coverage is to provide actionable insight that educates and provides value to readers.
Know when to step in or step back.
In the world of strategic communications, every word is supposed to matter. But in the current landscape, there are entirely too many words being thrown around, and many of them don’t actually matter to the issues at hand. This prevents the voices that need to be heard from getting the platform they deserve, especially when it comes to disenfranchised communities of POC and minorities. It’s important to understand which conversations you need to step into, and when you should take a step back and let the most critical perspectives rise to the top.
Anticipate outcomes but be prepared to pivot at a moment’s notice.
While accepting uncertainty is part of the new normal, it’s still important to forecast potential outcomes from every major event within your industry. Your communications strategy should always include some predictions about what to expect in order to help your peers, leadership, and customers plan accordingly. However, new information is always unfolding, and it’s important to make sure your messaging is updated in real time to reflect the changing landscape, especially when the changes don’t line up with your previous expectations. This will ensure that your target audiences know that you’re constantly monitoring the situation and making proactive decisions to improve.
Acknowledge mistakes and commit to learning and improving.
With many of us making quick decisions to address new problems, it's inevitable that some of those decisions will be wrong. While it may be easier to stick to your guns and go on the defense, audiences will hold you in much higher regard if you acknowledge your mistakes and show humility. A good communications strategy involves learning from your mistakes and outlining steps to continue building trust and driving improvement.
We’re not out of the woods yet, and the last two years have taught us that anything can and will happen. If you keep the concept of strategic elasticity at the core of your communications strategy, you’ll ensure that your brand stays ahead of the curve and is seen as a valued thought leader within your industry and beyond.
Posted by Paolo Ramos