COVID-19 & PR: Why CSR is the new normal and most potent crisis response strategy. 

If you are a practitioner, lecturer or student in the Public Relations (PR) industry, then you will have to revise your notes on the appropriate PR response strategy to adopt in periods of crisis, especially as we battle Covid-19.

Please note that the traditional crisis response protocol we are used to and have read about in school might not apply entirely during this uncertain period.

Arguably the traditional approach might just work for only governments or their respective agencies in respect of communicating with the public.  We will surely need a different response protocol for brands that are withering the storm in this period.

COVID-19 has taught us that the usual press releases, briefings and perhaps launches of new product lines as part of PR and marketing strategy may not work for brands in this period. It may just create unnecessary backlash as the only thing that may be of interest to their publics will be their safety and survival.

So as a practitioner what will be the most appropriate strategy to adopt for your brand or clients should you be in consulting during this turbulent time.

My advice is to do absolutely nothing but CSR ! CSR ! CSR !

In my estimation this has proven to be the most potent strategy and I will tell you why.

Now Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) globally is a metric for measuring how brands interact with their stakeholders (internal & external) and communities. It isn’t just the right thing to do but it increasingly makes business sense for brands to dedicate a significant part of their profit to supporting social good, especially as COVID-19 has displaced thousands including significant job losses among the middle class.

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I must state that any brand that attempts to make profit out of this pandemic will certainly receive backlash that will have debilitating effects far beyond the life span of this pandemic. Indeed, McDonalds Brazil ran an advert that showed its iconic arches separated to show social distancing. They had to withdraw it after much backlash.

Amazon had its own share of backlash after its CEO Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world publicised a public relief fund calling on people to donate to its contract employees.

Brands must understand that this is the time to put forward a human face by communicating empathy, understanding and social support for their customers and the vulnerable in society. This is why I was happy when Kasapreko quickly switched to producing low cost alcohol based hand sanitizers as an effort to curtail the virus.

We have also seen the likes of Wilmar, producers of Frytol and the Lele Group of companies donate cash and products worth GHȻ1 million and GHȻ100,000 respectively as their contribution towards the fight against COVID 19.

Many companies have followed suit. We must see an aggressive CSR drive by brands in our communities. This is the only way they can leverage on the pandemic to promote their brands than running unrelated adverts on television or radio. Any company that continues to run such adverts in the media may sooner or later face backlash and perhaps tagged as insensitive.

Brands must understand that supporting social good has become as important as delivering shareholder value and profitability.

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By Steve Kubate Salifu||com

The writer is a PR & Political Marketing Strategist and currently a Deputy National Sponsorship Coordinator at SOS Children’s Villages Ghana.


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