Following a year of unprecedented challenges, Spring 2021 is filled with promise and optimism. As more people are becoming vaccinated and restrictions are slowly lifting, we are finally beginning to let our guard down and return to a “normal” way of life.
But are we really in the clear yet?
I was fortunate enough to get my second vaccine this week. But as I once again read the handout given to me before receiving my shot, it reinforced that there are still so many uncertainties ahead.
The series of disclaimers pointed to one strong message: since the vaccine is intended for emergency use, there’s no way to guarantee its long-term effectiveness. While the vaccines have been proven to be extremely effective in the short-term (please get vaccinated!), there’s still a lot we don’t know about how long they’ll protect people and how effective they are against new variants of the virus.
How can brands and businesses poise themselves to reopen in a post-pandemic world that’s still highly unpredictable? And how can you develop a public relations strategy that reflects what the world may look like in the months to come?
Planning Your Post-Pandemic PR Strategy
As a child, I learned to “stop, look, and listen” before crossing the railroad tracks. This well-known mantra teaches children not to forgo crossing the tracks altogether, but to proceed with caution when they do: stop what you’re doing, look at both sides of the tracks, and listen for bells or horns in the distance.
It’s amazing how the things we learn as kids can have a lasting impression on our lives. As a PR practitioner specializing in crisis intervention for the past 20 years, I apply the “stop, look, and listen” framework whenever I’m faced with risky or unpredictable situations.
Here’s how your brand can apply “stop, look, and listen” to its post-pandemic PR strategy:
Stop. Stop doesn’t have to mean grinding to a halt; in our current reality, it means slowing things way down. Take a step back and evaluate every company decision within the context of lingering uncertainties about health and safety. Is now the right time to bring your employees back to the office? If so, what can you do to ensure a successful transition?
Emerging from the pandemic should be a careful and deliberate process, with the assumption that safety precautions will remain in place indefinitely. The last thing you want is to risk a potential health or safety crisis when there’s an end to social distancing in sight.
Look. Observe what’s happening within your market or target audience. Are people returning to indoor dining, or will the shift to outdoor dining and takeout cement itself as a long-lasting behavioral trend? Will large in-person events like concerts, sports, and festivals make a comeback anytime soon? Perhaps people will prefer maintaining space for social distancing or sticking to their own social bubbles for now. Assess and analyze your market’s behavioral patterns, then plan your own events and activities accordingly.
Listen. It’s important for a company to convey that they’re looking out for their people and not just their bottom line. What are your customers and employees saying about your brand? Send out an informal survey or create a focus group to get more detailed insights.
You may find that in order to maintain your brand reputation, you need to go above and beyond the guidance that’s being provided when it comes to safety measures. For example, maintaining extra space between tables at restaurants or events may help patrons feel more comfortable. In corporate settings, employees may feel safer working from home until the end of the year, even though it may technically be safe to return sooner.
While the months ahead are full of promise, there’s no denying that the global events from the past year have altered the world we once knew. But life is full of uncertainties—and the COVID-19 pandemic certainly won’t be the last challenge that brands face. Businesses with the ability to embrace change and proceed with caution will find success going forward.
Want to talk more about post-pandemic planning for your brand? Let’s chat!