Headlines about COVID-19 have been dominating the news since 2020. To make things even worse, just as concerns about the pandemic are going down, the world is heading quickly toward what experts predict might be one of the hardest-hitting recessions in history. It’s true, people are mainly concerned about taking care of their health by practicing social distancing. However, news stories are also addressing the major impact coronavirus has had on businesses and industries worldwide. It may seem like business is the last thing on people’s minds. Even so, don’t let that discourage you from using this time to develop your business and create a PR strategy.

The brand image you create can influence your reputation as a company in the long term. Many companies have recognized this and taken steps to protect their employees and businesses. During times of crisis, it is important that brands address the issues at hand with tact, empathy, and mindful marketing.

It is evident that people all over the world are in a constant state of anxiety and are less attentive to business development efforts or product launches. In this environment, businesses might need to modify their marketing and PR tools to reach customers whose minds are still occupied by the pandemic and the economy.

So how do you conduct empathetic marketing during a crisis?

Every brand is different but there are basic action plans that can help brands of all sizes make the right choices and avoid serious mistakes during hard times. There are certain things you can focus on during this time and there are steps you can take to adapt your PR and marketing.

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Steps to take:

1) Work from home

While many employers have already shuttled their staff back to the office, it is important to be sensible and run your business for as long as there are concerns about COVID-19. Allow your employees to work from home as much as possible. By insisting on workers coming to the office during this pandemic, you might gain negative publicity. This is especially true if your company is just starting out.

2) Think about how to tell your story

At the moment, journalists and reporters have many stories to tell about the pandemic so it is very important that you word your story wisely and evaluate the timing and tone of your pitch. Are there any elements of your story that may make it seem insensitive? Does it seem like you’re pursuing profits at a time when a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet? Don’t capitalize on the crisis – everyone is going through it. It’s important to avoid seeming like you’re out to exploit people.

Keep people informed about the health and financial crises at hand by communicating your response to it and how it’s affecting the business. You can create news-centric content that adds value to customer relationships, but don’t be a jerk about it. Keep them informed but don’t make them panic, share information that is legitimate, and avoid using overly dramatic language.

3) Be informed on the news

The news at the moment is no longer just based on the pandemic. We’ve been hearing stories about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the monkeypox outbreak, rising fuel prices, and crumbling global economies. 

Figure out what wave of coverage you fit into. The pattern of news cycles is usually “breaking news” first and then follow-up stories that are related to the pandemic. So, even if your piece doesn’t fit into the first cycle, you might be able to write a follow-up piece.

4) Stay relevant to your audience

Whatever your product/service is, look for ways to put your audience’s needs over yours. Of course, you want to give new information but think of the things that your clients may need.

Make sure that your audience knows that you are there for them; remind yourself what your brand stands for and how it can relate to the pandemic. Always be personable and help them realize you’re not a robot devoid of human emotion when trying to communicate with them.

Let’s assume you help people with their finances on a regular basis. In this case, you might want to create content on ways that they can save money during this pandemic and how they can adapt if business is still slow.

Understand your audience's needs

5) Tailor your press releases/launches

Of course, adapting your press releases and launches to your business environment is always important, but right now tailored pitches might be fundamental to the survival of your business. It might be in bad taste to look like you’re simply going on with business as usual with little consideration for the plight of your customers.

Before publishing a press release or launching a new product, think about how the products or services you’re promoting can help your customers during this hard time. You don’t want it to seem like you’re just after your customers’ money. Make it clear that you care about them and that you’re launching new products and services with them in mind.

6) Evaluate your imagery and language

Visuals are one of the major forms of communication and it is very important to think of the message that you are trying to convey. Be considerate of the type of language you are using in your push content (email subject lines, social media posts, current campaign taglines, content, and blogs). Try to help your audience feel comfortable – avoid focusing too much on the doom and gloom that we’re going through. After all, we see enough of this in the news these days.

7) Work on back-burner projects

Most likely, there are projects which have been set aside because they weren’t a priority. Now would be the perfect time to give those projects your attention. This could take the form of updating your brand message, creating and publishing a new website, or developing a thought-leadership strategy. This is the perfect time for those projects.

8) Focus on online services

Look for ways to do things online to support your marketing and PR strategies. You can create webinars if that’s something you do so that people can log in from the comfort of their homes. You can even do a live video on social media channels to engage your audience.

If you haven’t already done it, try using paid ads because they are becoming a lot cheaper. Big ad networks need small businesses to drive up the cost per click for ads so that bigger corporations have to spend more money on ads. Since the virus has forced many businesses to suspend some operations or close everything, there are fewer advertisers, so the ads are cheaper. It is clear that paid ads are producing a much higher ROI than before the pandemic.

9) Build up your social media

If your customers weren’t already on social media, they’re definitely flocking to social media now. This is a trend you can take advantage of. Make sure your information is up to date and look for ways to add some flair to your social media profiles. You should also upload content that keeps you and your brand relevant and speaks to your audience.

10) Understand that resources are limited  

Develop a wide-ranging public relations strategy. While media houses and journalists are trying to maintain their niche reporting, they are currently still prioritizing stories about the worldwide economy. Spend extra time and effort on developing an effective story angle that will capture media attention. It’s also important to remember that media relations is only one of many public relations tactics – you can boost your media relations efforts by engaging other PR tactics.

11) Focus on what’s important

Even if you are trying to take your time and give your customers time to recover from the crises we are facing, it does not mean that you should do nothing. If you aren’t getting any engagement from the people you’re reaching out to, try upgrading your messaging to make it more effective and relatable. If you’ve had issues in the past with creating content for your blog or social media channels, now would be a great time to create content that can be scheduled in the future. Use this time to experiment and come up with strategies that will create long-term engagement.

12) Optimize your digital spaces

This is the perfect time to make sure that your digital spaces are fully optimized. You can clean up and refine your SEO and marketing strategies to make sure your content is as visible as possible. Update all your information, and figure out what is and isn’t working in your strategy. Adjust your tactics and budget once you have figured it out.

It’s also important that you let your customers know you’re still open during this time. One way to get the message across is through Google Ads campaigns because it is the best way to reach customers who intend to buy quickly. You can also use social media ads to reach your audience. Online advertising is a good way to maintain demand for your product or service. Create something different and attractive to the consumer, which may include discounts.

13) Look at long-term goals

Remember that companies are designed for the long term – dedication and perseverance are required to build brand visibility, thought leadership, market competitiveness, and reputation. Startup evaluation may be at a standstill or declining, but this would be a great time to figure out exactly what you want for your business.

14) Look for ways to help

At this time, it is important not to be selfish. You need to figure out ways to help your community, whether it is with resources, technology, or skills. You need to look outward and ask yourself what you can do to help others get through this crisis.

Try doing something that you’ve never done before. If you have features that you used to charge for, like premium features, you could provide these to customers for free. This way, they can still enjoy your services at a time when it might be difficult to afford them. When things go back to being relatively settled, they might be willing to pay for that service and even refer others to it.

Communicate the benefits of your company; clarify its unique value during this time. Answer the question: Does your product give people things to do while at home? Does it help people do their jobs without physical interaction? Make sure you create helpful content to educate, entertain, or inspire people.

15) Be prepared to change your budget

Buyer behavior will definitely change a lot during this period, so brace yourself to accommodate these changes in your budget. Whether it is the amount of money that you are spending on PPC, keywords, or even traditional marketing methods, it is important to factor all of those things in. Use your budget wisely because you don’t know what will happen. So maybe even invest in a long-term plan and hire agencies or purchase press kits to master scalable marketing strategies.


It is very important that you stay patient during this time – you need to tweak your marketing and PR efforts to reach your usual audience. Everyone is distracted right now so try to employ creative strategies. If you believe that you can successfully capture attention, make sure that your main concern is the public. It’s not ideal to get bad press about your new company because you seem inconsiderate of what everyone is going through.

Since we will all be spending a lot of time at home and on the computer, why not get a press kit so you can boost your brand image? I also encourage you to stay active online, answer any questions that your customers might have and let them know that you’re still there and you’re looking out for their best interests. Remind them that we will all get through this together.