PR events in a time of Covid

By Kirsten Paul, Account Director

We are in the midst of a brave new world. Learning new skills and tailoring processes that six months ago were natural to us.

As the pandemic changed where we work every day, it also meant that we have needed to adapt how we do things.

The very core of the comms discipline involves people, and meaningful engagement across many platforms. While I think we have all mastered the daily online comms part, thanks to great technology, being able to interact with audiences in person may never be the same. We are all more cautious, (socially) distanced, respectful. How will that impact our work as comms professionals where that in-person event is vital to a campaign?

We’ve seen some food and hospitality events successfully take place over the summer with social distancing measures, but would the same work when it comes to press launches and media trips?

The first question that PR’s must address is — is an in-person event necessary? Ultimately, the responsibility for health of all who attends the event lies with you. If that event or launch can be moved to a Zoom call or (should budget allow) using other technology like virtual reality to take your guests to where you wanted to go without having to leave home, then amazing.

But for some events like product launches or media nights, these will likely remain best held in person. So, what must one consider when organising these events? Here are our tips and tricks to make Covid-secure events a success.

1) Limit (or stagger) your guest list

The success of an event was previously measured in ‘bums on seats’, however, in this new era the size of the venue will significantly impact your numbers when 1m or 2m social distancing comes into play. If you have previously gathered guests in a room in close quarters for an event, this must change. Alternatively, provide media with a time slot to be briefed. (Note: time must be allowed for the sanitisation of the venue or room before the next journalist arrives). This approach will also impact plus ones — ask yourself if they are absolutely needed to make the event a success.

2) Go digital

If you have a physical event, handouts and printed press releases are a thing of the past. We now live in a digital/mobile first world. It’s time to get creative with your design team about how you can share your news — by all means keep it simple through email, or add a new dimension by creating an app to not only provide a summary of the news but feature video content to engage and educate your guests. By taking a digital approach you’ll not only limit the spread of the virus, but also contribute to saving the planet too.

3) Take precautions

Health and Safety forms just got a whole lot more interesting! Over and above completing these forms, other elements to take into consideration are: track and trace, hand sanitising points (and potentially providing face coverings), one-way systems and communication of all of these aspects to inform and reassure those attending. This also means making sure that you and your team are also wearing face coverings and practicing what you preach — branded face covering anyone?

4) Have a Plan B

The virus (as we have found) has been unpredictable, and as we see restrictions can often be announced overnight. As responsible comms leaders, we must always ensure there is a back up plan in place for such eventualities. Whether this means already planning to move your event online or having an alternative date to reschedule to; as we have learned 2020 has brought its fair share of drama, so we need to be prepared for absolutely anything that it has to throw at us!

While finding a glimmer of positivity in 2020 has been tough, we work in the creative sector and if nothing else, this year has taught us how to be resilient! Yes, the way we live and work are different, but we’re all getting used to the new behaviours that have been imposed on us. Now is the time for the comms industry to start planning again, considering ways to take the pandemic’s lemons and turn them into lemonade for the benefit of our clients.

Interested in reading more on the topic? We found these key articles during the development of this blog:

· Campaign

· PR Week

· Wadds Inc