Communicating, collaborating and connecting amidst COVID-19

Suffice it to say the novel coronavirus has impacted every aspect of all of our lives, and it’s just getting started.

Like many of you, we’ve canceled our spring break trips, embraced social distancing and are settling into at-home time with our families. We’ve been working remotely since last week to do our part in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Our agency is prepared – we’ve had an often-used and successful work-from-home policy for many years, and we’ve invested in processes and technology to ensure that we are accessible, responsive, proactive and secure. We’re fortunate that the public relations industry is one that allows a shift to a remote approach with fewer bumps in the road than others.

At Bellmont Partners, we focus hard on collaboration and connectivity, so in this uncertain time – when we’re physically separated – we wanted to take a minute to offer a glimpse of how our agency life continues to move along.

Although our office door is locked, we’re far from being shut down. In fact, we’re deeply involved in a lot of new work, almost all addressing the unique and sometimes unexpected challenges the coronavirus crisis is creating, spanning nearly every communications discipline (not to mention, client industry):

  • Some of our clients are being impacted in an extremely urgent way: We’re helping several companies on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic with a variety of strategies and implementation, from messaging to crisis communications.
  • Other clients are providing straightforward, useful advice for businesses and consumers: We’re helping R3 Continuum, a leader in global disruptive event management, share advice for guiding businesses through the outbreak. We’re also collaborating with a financial services client on its messaging around the rollercoaster virus-fueled markets, even producing a fully remote podcast.
  • Others are responding to the critical needs laid bare by the virus. We’re connecting media with Second Harvest Heartland, one of the nation’s largest food banks, to share the heightened need for volunteers and donations. Second Harvest is putting together emergency food boxes, which they’re distributing via their drive-throughs to minimize person-to-person contact. The organization also just announced an initiative that partners with Minnesota restaurants to use their quiet kitchens and idle staff to feed the hungry.
  • Still others are reframing their event strategies: We’re working with The Loft’s Wordplay festival to reinvent itself as a virtual event, and providing counsel to numerous clients to modify the news they were expecting to announce at now-canceled trade shows or fundraising events. Will events later in May, June or July be impacted, as well? We’re not sure. How about the Minnesota State Fair this summer? We’re working to prepare for any contingency.

And we’re helping nearly every other client plan for where this could all go. Through it all, we find ourselves emphasizing a few key principles no matter what the specific scenario may be:

  1. Stick to the facts. It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers, and it’s okay to say so. Relay the facts that you can to the audiences that need to hear them.
  2. Keep people informed. As things change by the minute, communicate updates on a regular basis – especially to your employees and other key audiences. In the absence of communication, rumors can begin and cause even more worry and confusion.
  3. Adapt, adapt, adapt. None of this is normal, and we can’t expect our communications to follow their normal paths either. Whether it’s turning an event into a virtual festival, or recording and producing a podcast remotely, we’re all adapting on the fly. It’s not ideal, but maybe we’ll find some new, better ways of working in the process.

Just like everyone else, we don’t know what the future holds, but we’re rolling up our sleeves (and yes, sometimes working in our sweatpants) to do our part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and support our clients as we all navigate these unchartered waters.

Along the way, we’re working hard to stay as connected as we can. How about you? We’d love to hear more about how you’re approaching this unprecedented time, including how your team is staying in touch. And if there’s anything we can do to assist you in COVID-19 communications, please let us know.

We’ll continue to provide updates as this all unfolds. In the meantime, stay safe, everybody.

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