After getting through the tidal wave of pandemic communications that enveloped our team through spring and early summer last year, it was clear COVID-19 wasn’t going away any time soon. This, of course, presented our next challenge: sharing our clients’ good work tastefully and respectfully as the world kept turning and humanity tried to keep up — albeit crawling at times.
The obstacles caused by the pandemic — including those necessary for us to keep one another safe and reach the end sooner – tested my communications skills. As we all dealt with the shock and grief that followed March 2020, these obstacles required me to step back, rethink and broaden my approach in order to accomplish the many projects on my to-do list and successfully reach target audiences.
While not exactly grateful for the challenge at the time, I now realize I’ve gained invaluable experience. Mass chaos aside, crises present great learning opportunities, right? Thanks to the following strategies SPR took in the past year, I’ve grown in my profession and made it to spring 2021.
Being a Reliable Source
During this confusing time, stopping the spread of misinformation became an even higher priority for the SPR team — especially when managing municipal clients’ social media platforms. Priding ourselves on honest work that puts people first, we used our resources to correctly inform clients and their audiences to both proactively and reactively stop the spread of COVID-19. We continually monitored federal, state and local health directives, regularly tuned in to Gov. Whitmer’s press conferences, studied each phase of the MI Safe Start plan, subscribed to science- and fact-based newsletters and alerts and kept updated on CDC and WHO directives. Quickly delivering the latest news on the pandemic has been invaluable to our clients, and it’s a practice I will apply to other long-term challenges.
We quickly realized it wasn’t a priority or might appear insensitive for the media to cover stories unless they were somehow related to the pandemic. Roller skates at the ready, we pitched opportunities that engaged the community and were related to our common situation of navigating the pandemic. For example, come fall, no one was sure what the 2020-21 school year would like, making the annual school supply shopping trip a bit less traditional. Whether learning in-person or online, students still needed the tools and resources to succeed in school. Retail, in turn, was struggling to survive after being shut down for several months. In order to attract the media’s attention to Woodland Mall, we connected students’ unique learning needs due to the pandemic, providing a robust back-to-school shopping guide that garnered great coverage.
Connecting Via Shared Experiences
While the pandemic has not been a welcomed experience, there have been instances when we were able to connect with our audiences on a deeper level because of it. For our friends at the Children’s Healing Center, daily life has not changed much in the past year. Unfortunately, kids coping with weakened immune systems and their families have been taking our current precautions for years — wearing masks, physical distancing, limiting interactions, etc. Now that the world had experienced a taste of their regular lives, we were able to share messages of hope and connect with stakeholders, including existing and potential donors, in a new way. The pandemic further supported the need for the Center’s incredible work, which enabled us to develop powerful messaging for our client.
In the past year, the world collectively thought more creatively than ever before to prevent complete frenzy: Italians sang and played instruments on balconies, virtual game nights were held to spend time with loved ones while physically distancing and several universities, museums and other institutions offered free virtual tours, classes and content. In short, the pandemic has made us all examine how we engage with one another. It was this re-evaluation that forced me to reimagine my approach to my work and, in turn, helped me grow professionally and prepare for whatever comes next.