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April 6, 2020
Finding the Right Tone: Shining a Light on Compassion and Expertise During a Time of Crisis
Zhana Veleska

During this Covid-19 pandemic, we mostly hear about PR in the context of crisis communications. Companies are thinking through their responses to scenarios like shutdowns, employee contagion and distancing for audiences including the public, employees and customers. In a crisis, being prepared, truthful and as transparent as possible is crucial to having a measure of communications control.

But even within a crisis landscape, there are many ways to shine a light on how companies and organizations contribute to their communities—whether those are the cities and towns in which they operate, or their professional communities of interest.

Striking the right tone as you “pitch” and tell these stories to media is key. The desire to be informational, educational, helpful and non-promotional must be authentic and genuine. Journalists know their viewers, listeners and readers are hungry for good news that inspires and information that is fact-based from expert sources.  They’ll reject hype and hyperbole. Tell it like it really is and serve it up plain and simple. When the story is good and the expertise is real, that will carry the day.

Here are recent examples from our clients.

Herzing University—Shining a Light on Compassion

Inspiring stories can unfold in unexpected ways and from many different levels of an organization. At Herzing University, headquartered in the Milwaukee area, the story of helping in a time of need was sparked by the president, Renee Herzing.

The school, which offers health care-related degrees at its nine campuses nationwide, donated personal protection equipment (PPE) to health care organizations in their campus communities, in addition to buying dinners for medical staff and volunteering.

Renee Herzing took it a step further. When she heard Brian Adam, the CEO of the Olympus Group, was retooling his factory – which usually makes mascot costumes and large banners – to make face shields for professionals on the front lines of the crisis, she wanted to help. Herzing provided funds for 10,000 of the masks to be sent to local hospitals for health care workers – some of whom graduated from Herzing – and to provide support for a vital new company in the PPE supply chain. Adam is selling the shields at cost to help health care organizations in this unique time, which also helps to keep as many of his employees on the job as possible.

Two concerned Milwaukee executives who were touched by this crisis took action—helping their community, keeping folks employed and making a difference.

Here are just two of the stories that resulted:

Rabobank—Shining a Light on Expertise

More than ever, experienced and trusted experts who can provide fact-based content and commentary are sorely needed by media outlets.

Rabobank, a global financial services provider, employs an analyst team with in-depth knowledge of the food, beverage and agricultural markets. Spotlighting Rabobank’s expertise served to help a broader audience understand how actions such as closing restaurants, colleges and schools because of shelter in place orders – as well as the surge in grocery buying – affected the food and beverage supply chain, including manufacturers, distributors and end-consumers.

In just two weeks, Rabobank analysts were key sources for business media such as Forbes, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal and influential trade media including Food Navigator-USA and Food Dive.

Here are a couple stories that resulted:

These examples show how public relations and communications professionals can help journalists tell the stories that need to be told during an emerging crisis. We need inspiring, “soft,” human interest stories to illustrate how each of us can do something to help and connect with our neighbors. The fact-based business stories can provide important background information and context to an unfolding economic situation.

How these stories are served up is important, which—in times of crisis—should be with utmost authenticity and a genuine desire to contribute to the common good.

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