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Planning Utility PR in Coronavirus Era a Difficult Task

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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner Freelancer

I hold 34 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too.  The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

  • Member since 2016
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  • Apr 14, 2020
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The coronavirus era and the age of social distancing have created all sorts of challenges for individuals, government, businesses and every other kind of organization.

One of those challenges is future planning. You can’t plan if you don’t know when things will get back to “normal” or even when things such as social distancing are scaled back, let alone discontinued.

For example, my day job newspaper normally puts out a “summer events” guide in early June. But in speaking with other managers, we’re not sure what we’re going to do – it’s hard to write about events that may not happen. And advertisers won’t buy ads if they don’t know their events are going to happen.

In other words, our plans are completely up in the air.

And I suppose the same is true for your utility’s public relations department.

So, what can you do?

Well, you can always update your media contact lists, spruce up your evergreen publicity materials and even update your boilerplate.

Meet and greets with reporters and editors that cover your utility are out of the question, but you can always check in via email or teleconference. In fact, journalists are looking for stories these days as the “how X is impacted by the coronavirus” and “how X is being done remotely” angles are being played out. If you’ve got a fresh angle, more power to you.

In the meantime, you have no choice but to continue to prepare for all upcoming events/promotions/campaigns that you know haven’t already been canceled. Yes, some of your work will go to waste if things continue to be canceled, but you always have to be prepared.

It’s also a good idea to be creative with virtual versions of events. We’re seeing just how clever many people can be getting their messages across via video. If “Saturday Night Live” can pull off a new show with cast members filming video remotely, your utility certainly can do something interesting, too.

Most of all in these unusual times, your PR team is going to need to be flexible. That flexibility will allow you to handle any changes as they come and take advantages of opportunities that present themselves.

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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