5 Questions with Mandy Williams, PR Pro, During COVID-19
The Homewood Chamber is asking local experts for their thoughts on the Coronavirus crisis. The newest interview in our series is with Mandy Williams, public relations agent and owner of McDaniel Public Relations.
1) What do I do first?
One of the first rules of good PR is to communicate your company message on your own terms, rather than letting bad news be spread by others on your behalf. When a business is closing or changing hours or business models due to a crisis, it is important to let customers know as soon as possible and to communicate that message through every channel available. Stay calm and focus on communicating a clear message to your customers!
2) What social media outlets should I be using?
Most businesses have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. I highly recommend that your business utilize these three communication channels to reach varying audiences. In addition, I strongly suggest that all businesses take advantage of Google My Business, Google’s business listing. Rather than focusing on opening new accounts that your business is not currently using, I would recommend assessing the accounts that you have and making sure that you are providing a clear and consistent message across all of the platforms. If your business hours or business policies are changing due to COVID-19, customers should be able to visit your website, Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter and Google to see any updates that have been made. It is so important to reach different groups within your customer base who tend to use different social media channels. There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than not being able to find out the business hours or offerings on the communication channel with which are most comfortable.
3) How does my message change during a crisis?
With the particular crisis that we are currently facing, it is so important to keep up and change your messaging as needed. Things have changed rapidly with new mandates coming out weekly. If at first your business changed hours, but then your business was temporarily closed, make sure that you’ve communicated that message to your customers. Some businesses posted about their changed hours, but never went back to say that they were closed after more changes were made. I think it is very important to let customers know that even though your business is closed, you are still reachable. Share that message occasionally and make sure customers know what services you currently have available, especially if you are offering online or curbside/delivery services.
4) How often should I be posting or sending emails during these turbulent times?
The frequency really depends on your business and the message you want to communicate. As long as it is relevant go for it! There is no point in wasting a customer’s time with an email that virtually every business across the U.S. copied, pasted and sent out via social media and email when COVID-19 first hit. However, if you have new merchandise to showcase or business news to share-go ahead and share it! If nothing else, it helps to build some anticipation for your reopening.
5) Any tips for a small business during the COVID Crisis?
Stay engaged! Just because your business is temporarily closed or working limited hours doesn’t mean that you should go silent on your website and social media. In fact, the opposite is true. Many customers and potential customers are sitting around at home, scrolling through social media much more than usual. Use this time as an opportunity to make your business presence known! Even if you have nothing from your own business to share, you can still share articles that are relevant to your industry, engage with comments on local topics, and ask customers for input. Use this downtime to your advantage by staying engaged!