As the coronavirus disease aka COVID-19 outbreak continues, the daily media industry has been continuously updating the public with media coverage on the needed precautions and outbreak cases that have been in effect, but could the media be blowing this viral concern out of proportion? COVID-19 is defined as, “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a new virus that had not been previously identified in humans. The virus causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever and in more severe cases, pneumonia” (Google). The spread of this disease has become a global crisis causing various media platforms to produce constant reports regarding this topic. A few questions have been floating around the media such as, how brand managers should address COVID-19, should events be cancelled because of the coronavirus, and how the coronavirus is disrupting the global advertising industry.
The news outbreak about this virus continues to change every hour, leaving companies scrambling to prepare their communication strategies. Companies feel that taking appropriate operational and communications steps now will help organizational strength and stability. Below are five easy tips from PR daily to proactively communicate and respond to requests for information related to COVID-19:
- Communicate early, often and consistently
- Sound the alarm, but don’t be an alarmist
- Find and use credible sources
- Revisit your business continuity plan
- Develop a pandemic scenario
This article “How brand managers should address COVID-19” provides the public with useful information about how communicators can help their organizations respond to this global health crisis and this specific agency leader (Rick French) shares his insights. “As companies openly encourage sick employees to stay home, they must also review work-from-home and sick-leave policies. Keep in mind that employees might need to stay to care for affected family members or cope with childcare issues if schools or daycares close” (French, Rick). French also explains, that companies should put personnel first in their communications, displaying an appropriate level of concern, while also working to implement preventative measures. “Make it clear that if employees are sick—especially with symptoms of respiratory illness such as cough, shortness of breath or fever—they should stay home and see a doctor” (French, Rick). Experts have previously said they believe the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through human contact, public health officials recommend reducing unnecessary face-to-face meetings. Therefore, many companies are restricting international travel, particularly to areas where the coronavirus is prevalent. “The World Health Organization and CDC are continuously providing information on the status of the outbreak, as well as guidance on how to protect against the virus and identify its symptoms” (French, Rick). These organizations have additional resources available to provide employees with reliable information so everyone can educate themselves and stay informed. Reminding employees of proper hand hygiene, along with cough and sneeze etiquette can reduce the risk of sickness. This can be done by placing alcohol-based hand sanitizer units near workplace entrances, in conference and break rooms, and other high-traffic areas to serve as visual reminders about the need for protection. As well as, encouraging staff to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds several times each day” (French, Rick).
Should events be cancelled because of the coronavirus? PR Daily covers this topic by informing the public about the many organizations worldwide that are canceling trade shows, internal events and media happenings. What to do? Russel Working from PR Daily says, “Start with CDC and local public health advisories”. For example, this week the 2020 Natural Products Expo West postponed its major trade show at the last minute due to fears of the virus, designated COVID-19, drawing criticism from participants. “Faced with a similarly tough decision, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs decided this week to go ahead with an annual conference in San Antonio, Texas—even as participants scaled back or dropped out. The decision prompted its co-director to resign in protest” (Working, Russell). The question from many is something along the lines of what to do given the fears provided by the media – that coronavirus could bring sneezy, coughing humans face to face during large events, causing a deathly related virus to swarm the nation. In this case, communicators/decision-makers struggle with the costly decision to cancel and experts say planners should consult local health care authorities and rely on guidance from the United States Centers for Disease. “The local public health department nearest the event venue would be the best resource for anyone trying to decide about a specific event,” says Mayo Clinic Communications Manager Ginger Plumbo.
As a future professional in the Advertising and PR industry, this crisis is seemingly disrupting the global advertising industry. Ad-Week communicator Doug Zang, explains how the global advertising industry is no stranger to disruption and turmoil. “Agencies and media companies have endured everything from natural disasters to overthrown governments, but these scenarios rarely spill beyond national borders” (Zang, Doug). The current outbreak of COVID-19, however, is different. “Between widespread travel restrictions and a dense cloud of uncertainty, the global advertising machine is slowing to a crawl in some ways and rapidly pivoting in others” (Zang, Doug). Ad-Week spoke with leaders about how the virus will affect four key parts of the industry: ad spend, experiential marketing, agencies and production companies. “Early indications are that overall ad spending could take at least a temporary hit, but TV could actually benefit from people staying home, tuning in to news and streaming programming” (Zang, Doug). In the brand and agency world, several considerations are at play, especially as the industry puts more of a premium on experiences. Some global events have been canceled, including Facebook’s F8 developer conference and Mobile World Congress. Companies that have traditionally had activations at SXSW, including Mashable, Twitter, Facebook and Intel, dropped out. And TikTok announced it will not be in Austin. The result of this virus is causing digital companies to shift – in my opinion, the digital world is not necessarily in turmoil but it is in fact changing because of this.
The media has considerably affected society; wither society chooses to believe what they read is their own choice. People need to do their own research by communicating with professionals and following basic steps every day to keep themselves happy, educated, and healthy. We can fight this battle together if we keep ourselves informed and keep clean.
French, Rick. “How Brand Managers Should Address COVID-19.” PR Daily, 9 Mar. 2020, http://www.prdaily.com/how-brand-managers-should-address-covid-19/.
Working, Russell. “Canceling over Coronavirus: Should Your Event Go on?” PR Daily, 6 Mar. 2020, http://www.prdaily.com/canceling-over-coronavirus-should-your-event-go-on/.
Zanger, Doug, et al. “How the Coronavirus Is Disrupting the Advertising Industry.” Adweek, 6 Mar. 2020, http://www.adweek.com/agencies/how-the-coronavirus-is-disrupting-the-global-advertising-industry/.