Is your company being heard? Lessons schools are teaching us, high street brands failing, and your so that

by Jim James

Founder of EASTWEST Public Relations.

Schools and stores showing their true colors during this pandemic 

When it came to going back to school after lockdown, many schools got off to a rocky start, causing a lot of discussion and worry amongst the parents on whether schools are doing their jobs to keep children safe. Nonetheless, most have seemed to realise that inspiring the children is more important than simply educating them, especially during these trying times. It helps when a curriculum is tailored to a student’s interests and helping them develop skills in that area of interest. 

Brands have different perceptions of dealing with the pandemic. For instance, in the High Street, Barclays had a post-it note for hearts in the window. NatWest had some quite good written branded information on the windows. Costa just had some brown paper over the windows. Many shops were looking just as though they’d been abandoned, not just furloughed. Marks and Spencer’s was advertising a sale with big rainbow hearts, full height of the windows, and with the doors open, showing that they are open for business. Online, NatWest talks about the coronavirus and how they can help customers get through it. The Barclays website was a bit slower to load, and it has a COVID page. H&M, which in person both said We’re Open and We’re Closed at the same time, had no mention of the coronavirus on their website, unlike the others. These companies are showing, to some degree, how much they care about their customers, because they offer almost tacit acknowledgment that there’s a difference to business, but they are not really helping customers get through it. 

What is your "so that", especially during these COVID times?

TEDx speaker Paul Dunn shares about this program in Singapore where companies can use an application they developed to donate money directly to worthy causes. Before that, he asked his listeners to articulate why they get up in the morning. His goal was to help people understand what their "so that" is, which is what drives the business to continue to do the work they do. Looking at your own business, are you answering the reason why your business is open? What’s your "so that"?

In this era of COVID-19 where people can’t do much in public due to all the guidelines and restraints, there will be customers who are isolated from the information, because some companies may not be serving fully or haven’t answered Paul Dunn’s question which is, are businesses existing “so that” we can solve this problem? People often get tied up with public relations about how one sounds or looks especially in comparison to the competition and whether the crisis was solved, but public relations is about meeting the needs of the stakeholders, which are internal, allies, and the external. It’s also about the COVID mindset, being Compassionate, Optimistic, Values-based, Informative, and Digital. Educational institutions can embody this by sharing their strategy on how they plan on keeping students safe, keeping facilities clean, ensuring that no student gets left behind, and easing parents’ anxieties on their children going back to school. 

Reflect on your business and find out what is your "so that," of which EASTWEST PR’s is to share insights and knowledge to help people so problemss, so that they can be free to unlock the value in their business or service. Remember: a PR story is not just an external one; it’s the entire way a company behaves towards both the best clients and the most vulnerable clients, and it’s only those brands that are doing that properly that will truly survive post-COVID. Hopefully, yours is one of those that will see it through.

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

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