One of the most pressing questions we’re all asking ourselves right now in our communications roles (not to mention in life) is, “When?”. Timing that used to be clear and plans that used to be set, are no longer so. We’re seeing communications professionals across industries quickly adapt their messaging, content and PR strategies, aligning their voice and company announcements with what the world needs to hear right now.
As they do that, we’re increasingly hearing questions from clients regarding timing: when it’s appropriate to reach out to media, when previously scheduled communications should get paused or resumed, how to fill in the gaps in an otherwise planned-out calendar and beyond. Here are eight questions to ask yourself about your communication that may lead you to better clarity on not only what to say, but when to say it:
- How is your industry media reacting to or shifting because of the crisis? Many of the trade publications we work with on behalf of our clients are addressing the coronavirus pandemic and its impact, but they’re also continuing to cover non-virus stories. “Pay close attention to how the media that reaches your constituents is or isn’t changing its focus. They may still be interested in your pitch or bylined article if the topic falls outside of COVID-19,” says BP President Brian Bellmont. “Things are evolving at record-breaking speeds, it seems. Double-check industry/national news right before you deliver, just in case something’s changed,” adds COO Jen Bellmont.
- Is what you’re communicating helpful? If so, share it. Account Supervisor Megan Derkey says, “People in general are spending more time on social media and watching and reading the news right now, so you do have a chance to reach a broader audience than normal.”
- Is what you’re sharing newsworthy? On the other hand, you don’t want to just add to the noise right now. While we all feel like we have something to say, the same rules for media relations and communication still apply. “We’re consistently hearing feedback from media that to write good stories, they still need measurable impact like data, client testimonials and more – beyond just spokespeople to offer for comments,” adds Senior Account Executive Michelle Cook.
- Have you told your employees and key stakeholders whatever news you intend to share publicly? You don’t want your staff learning about changes or developments from the news or social media; they should hear it from you first.
- Would another channel be more useful right now? Partner Shelli Lissick advises: “If it’s not the right time to pitch to media, consider other ways to reach your target audience like your blog, email, podcasts, social media and more.”
- Who is the communication coming from? “Is the communication coming from the brand, or – as people are craving human connection and looking to hear directly from leaders – could it be a more personal message from a C‑suite leader?” asks Vice President Bridget Nelson Monroe. “If you’re sharing updates on COVID-19-related initiatives, could those updates come from someone close to the work itself, like a product engineer or a front line worker?”
- What approach is your local government taking in communications? For local announcements, follow your local government’s lead. If the governor is sharing an announcement at 2 p.m. local time, that’s probably more important than your announcement, so hold off on sharing yours until later.
- Is your message compassionate? “Sensitivity is especially important right now and a good filter to use on your owned channels,” says Senior Account Executive Sara Grasmon. “Be aware of how what you’re posting on social media fits into the larger picture, knowing that people are more concerned than ever about health and safety, so they may not be interested in topics and posts that don’t fit into the current reality.” Megan Derkey adds, “Don’t use fear tactics; you have to understand what your audience is going through.” You can find the right approach and tone to communicate anything.”
The right message, at the wrong time, is the wrong message. “Reading the room is critical, now more than ever,” Shelli Lissick sums up. Before you hit “send” or get too far down the planning process, filter your communication through questions like these, which can guide your team to better clarity on “when.”
For ways we can help with your current shifting needs, visit: https://bellmontpartners.com/covid-19/