At midnight on Thursday 26 March, South Africa changed forever when it went into a hard lockdown to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. Up to that point, it had been business as usual.
The NGAGE #GreenTeam used the week prior to the lockdown to get in touch with our clients about the internal messaging they wanted to convey to (a) their customers and (b) their clients and the market in general.
This was critical, especially as many of our clients were deemed essential service providers. They not only had to put systems and procedures in place to deal with the new lockdown regulations, but at the same time had to get their staff up to speed and motivated to respond to the crisis.
This was a perfect example of the importance of PR. We also worked closely with our Social Media team to ensure we used all platforms to convey critical messaging as quickly and as effectively as possible.
That was a crazy week for all of us, but the NGAGE #GreenTeam is always up to a challenge! We were faced with a particularly difficult and fluid situation, as no one really knew what was going on prior to the lockdown, how it would be implemented, and neither what the short- and long-term impact and consequences would be.
At the same, as a gesture of solidarity and support to industry, we quickly compiled a special Covid-19 Communications Pack that was made available free-of-charge to all who applied for it. This proved hugely popular. We received enquiries from individual entrepreneurs and a wide range of small and large businesses, and even government departments.
What was abundantly clear was the huge need for reliable and accurate information about the Covid-19 crisis. We were able to use the experience we had gained in formulating our initial Covid-19 client comms to compile the pack.
About a week before the hard lockdown, the NGAGE #GreenTeam was up-and-running from home. The nature of our job is such that all we need is a laptop and an internet connection, and we are good to go!
This meant that during the period of the actual lockdown it was business as (un)usual on the PR front. Our #PRStars kept in close touch with their clients about the messaging they wanted to convey during the crisis.
A lot of our client comms focused on CSI initiatives. For example, Cummins has been involved in global partnerships to repurpose engine filtration media to manufacture medical-grade face masks. SEW-EURODRIVE and Paragon are both using their 3D printers in support of a national initiative to produce much-needed PPE for healthcare workers and first responders.
While a lot of this content was in the form of general news stories, we focused on Thought Leadership articles as well to convey the depth of the expertise and involvement of our clients in the national response to the Covid-19 crisis.
This worked particularly well for our client Aurecon, which has adapted its tracking software for use by the Department of Health, as well as providing specialised assistance to convert hospitals and other facilities into isolation wards.
Towards the end of the lockdown period, our comms for Aurecon included Thought Leadership articles on how to prepare workspaces for a return to work, and the steps needed to be taken by property developers to ensure their assets are up-and-running again as soon as possible.
Now that we have moved into a risk-based phase-down approach to the initial hard lockdown, we have asked all of our clients important questions about how they are going to gear up to face the ‘new normal’, and what their own customers can expect in terms of service and value-add going forward.
If you are under the impression that PR is just about fluff pieces trying to sell stuff, or that PR has nothing useful or valuable to contribute to either society or our economy in general, then just look at the Covid-19 crisis to see what a difference a targeted yet flexible comms strategy, across both digital and print platforms, can do for companies!
Not only are employees reassured that their bosses have the situation under control, and that their own livelihoods and health and safety are being looked after, but customers have peace of mind that their service delivery requirements are dealt with cost-effectively and efficiently during this difficult period.
The NGAGE #GreenTeam have stood by our clients throughout this entire period. It is testament to the strong relationships we forge not only with our clients, but with the publishing industry as a whole. With the printing presses unable to operate due to the lockdown restrictions, many traditional print magazines have had no option but to go digital.
We have provided extra content where needed, as we know that editors and journalists have been under extraordinary pressure themselves. We have also approached our clients for special content and topics that we know is relevant and newsworthy during the crisis.
As to the future? The NGAGE #GreenTeam is eager to meet the challenge of helping our clients on the difficult road to a normal business environment. The economy needs to open as quickly and as safely as possible – and this is where PR will shine again!
If you want to find out more about how we can assist your business reach its full potential, contact us at www.ngage.co.za.