PR in the Time of COVID-19

Apr 22, 2020

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” The great gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson said this many years ago, and it certainly holds true today. During these disorienting times of COVID-19, in the year 2020, things are inarguably weird. And scary. And uncertain.

And in the midst of this chaos, those of us who are still fortunate enough to have jobs need to keep pushing along. It should not be lost on any of us who are steadily working through this era of social distancing and self-quarantining that an insane number of people have lost their jobs since COVID-19 began to run roughshod through every aspect of our lives.

It also should not be lost on any of us sitting at home typing away on a laptop (as I am right now) that there are exhausted doctors, nurses, first responders, hospital janitors, etc., on the front lines battling this virus every day. Delivery drivers, Amazon warehouse employees, grocery store stockers and cashiers, waste collectors, and many others are showing up to work everyday and putting themselves at risk because it’s either work or join the millions who filed for unemployment last week.

Strange and scary times indeed.

I don’t say all of this to sound preachy. Most of you don’t need to be told anything I’ve written so far. But it’s March 30, and I have a blog to write. And what else am I supposed to focus on?

During the head-spinning month of March, enough happened to pack years. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays at this point we can just call them all “day.” Bleary-eyed neighbors walk their dogs for the third time in 12 hours and binge-watching the Tiger King reminds us that things can, indeed, still surprise us with their craziness.

And those of us in the PR world still need to work. But how? And on what?

At our PR firm, we are fortunate to exclusively represent healthcare and healthcare IT clients who work directly with providers and insurance firms. These companies offer population health management solutions, telemedicine, and air ambulance services (to name just a few). Work will continue at a break-neck pace for them. And that means we must make sure the public is aware of how these companies can help during this pandemic.

Our clients can allow patients to video chat with doctors on their phones or computers; they can enable providers to identify patients more at risk with respect to COVID-19 and zero in on who needs immediate outreach; they can provide life-saving air ambulance transport to patients in rural areas.

But many other companies don’t have such a direct connection to the conversation that is dominating the world. And those companies and their PR/marketing/advertising agencies might feel like they have nothing worthwhile to add to the conversation that doesn’t seem like a stretch or, even worse,

The best thing you can do as a PR professional is listen. Listen to the news. Set Google Alerts that have keywords related to both your clients’ specialties and news about COVID-19. Listen to your clients. Find out what they are doing for their employees during this time that could set a good example for other companies. What are they contributing to the battle against this virus? What are some innovative ways they can help all of us get through this?

The more you discuss these elements with your clients, the more angles you will find that add to the conversation in a constructive way. Creativity, now more than ever, is key.

The going is weird, friends. And it’s going to be weird for a while. So, we need to be the pros.

Matt Pera

Matt Pera is a tech PR and communications professional with more than 10 years of experience leading strategy and achieving measurable results for clients with a diverse range of products and offerings "“ including telehealth platforms, data management and protection, cybersecurity, Software as a Service, network connectivity, AI, and more. Previously an award-winning reporter and news editor, he uses his storytelling and writing background to create various types of content for clients, including thought leadership articles, press releases, web content, blog posts, case studies, white papers, and award submissions. Other activities he has overseen include comprehensive KPI reporting, social media strategy and execution, trade show support, media and messaging training, and new business initiatives. Before joining Amendola Communications, Matt was responsible for raising awareness and achieving industry and top-tier media placements for healthcare tech and pharma companies within the University of Chicago's startup incubator and tech transfer arm, the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Prior to that, he was an account lead for the Chicago-based PR firm Tech Image, where he managed strategy for global clients across a variety of industries. He has also worked extensively in both the telecom and nonprofit spaces to build brands, increase media presence through earned coverage, and provide strategic guidance. Matt received a B.A. in journalism and English from Indiana University.