After more than four long months, we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic – living an apocalyptic-like Stephen King novel. The coronavirus continues to penetrate the country and its fallout is devastating.
We’re fortunate on the Seacoast to be seeing some positive changes toward slower virus spread and the beginnings of our economic upturn, with careful and intelligent reopening guidelines, but there’s still a long way to go to fully recover from this crisis.
Many small and mid-sized businesses have suffered dire consequences from the COVID-19 crisis. Some, such as restaurants, spas and gyms, had to temporarily shut down due to COVID restrictions. Some businesses have, sadly, closed permanently. Others are faring better, but may have made concessions, such as furloughing staff, to try to boost their bottom line.
In an effort to stay afloat and save money, some companies have slashed or frozen marketing budgets. Regardless of your business size, industry or goals, one thing remains true – the need for communications. PR and marketing are still effective, essential strategies for sustaining – and growing – business.
Communications efforts help build brand awareness and increase visibility. They allow companies to showcase their benefits, differentiators and unique value propositions. Marketing campaigns that incorporate PR, digital marketing, and social media help organizations engage with their customers, keep them informed, offer incentives, solicit feedback, etc. Even (especially!) during a pandemic, don’t slash marketing if you can avoid it.
PR and marketing can have a positive impact without breaking the bank. Create a thoughtful, impactful PR and marketing campaign on a budget by doing the following:
Re-evaluate everything, keeping the pandemic in mind. As discussed in my previous article, “Sensible message management during COVID-19 pandemic,” you may need to change your messaging and/or your approach to incorporate more empathy, gratitude and compassion, given the current climate. This is a scary, uncertain time, so be sensitive.
Leverage social media. It’s free, easy, accessible. It can broaden your reach and help you attract and engage with new audiences (including prospects, referral sources, media contacts, etc.). Use social media channels that will best reach your target audiences. Facebook and Twitter users skew older than Instagram and TikTok users.
Utilize media relations. Stay connected to your media contacts and/or build new relationships by being smart about your story ideas or news significance. The media is, understandably, heavily focused on COVID-19-related stories, so share how your business is helping. Published articles are powerful third-party credibility and validation for your business.
Request help. People want to help businesses survive and thrive – especially in our close-knit Seacoast community, and especially during an unprecedented pandemic. Ask your clients, followers and fans for help, and let them know exactly what you need. Do you want referrals? Do you want clients to share your social media posts to help expand your reach? Do you want them to place positive reviews on Yelp or Google?
Provide value through digital marketing. Consider offering something valuable to help your key audiences, while promoting your company and services. A friend recently participated in a free one-hour Zoom session with a coach who specializes in helping high school students navigate the college search process, which has changed considerably due to the pandemic. She was so impressed with what she heard she’s hiring the coach and recommending the company to her friends, who also have teens starting the college search process. This small business owner will likely get multiple clients from that one free Zoom call. Whether you’re an accountant, financial planner, Realtor or interior decorator, provide valuable counsel during this tumultuous time, and it will likely pay off in increased business.
Show compassion and authenticity. Kindness matters – now more than ever. Donate your company’s products and services. Volunteer to help those in need. Build positive relationships with other local business owners and support each other through this tough time. Cross-promote each other’s businesses to help each other attract new customers. Establishing a culture of kindness and community service is the right thing to do, and it will attract people who will want to support your business.
In our new, COVID world, we’re re-evaluating, reducing budgets, revamping our messaging and striving to connect with our customers, prospects, fellow business owners and other key audiences. PR and marketing should remain an essential function and can be done effectively within a limited budget.
Stefanie Guzikowski is manager and founder of virtual PR firm E & G Public Relations, LLC. The firm specializes in leveraging passion and expertise to help clients build awareness in their marketplace, achieve a competitive edge and ultimately grow their business. Stefanie can be reached at email@example.com or (603) 817-9464. For more information, visit www.egpublicrelations.com.