In their words: What agency leaders are thinking during COVID-19

The role of comms in a brand new crisis.

A sign at a Kansas Costco lists what's in and out of stock. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
A sign at a Kansas Costco lists what's in and out of stock. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

With teams scrambling to serve clients while working from home, coronavirus is top-of-mind for PR firms and their leaders. PRWeek asked agency heads for their thoughts on how they're leading and inspiring employees in an unprecedented situation.

Robert Gibbs, senior counselor, Bully Pulpit Interactive, and former White House press secretary, on the role brands can play:
"I think everybody in the world is looking for answers and everybody has a role to play in that. What's important for brands now is to define the role you are playing inside your community and what impact are you going to have. It's communicating clearly that you are caring for the two most important relationships: the people who work for and with you and your customers, making sure you're providing them information and stability they need in a time when things are changing minute-by-minute."

Genna Keller's Atlanta PR shop Trevelino/Keller organized the TP Exchange, an initiative to collect and distribute toilet paper and other needed supplies like hand sanitizer.
"This is the time where creativity is really needed. If someone wants to help and make a difference, there is a way."

Carlos Correcha-Price, who left Edelman to become U.S. CEO of LLYC, on working remotely:
"I started a model at Edelman...to do specific work-from-home days, when the entire office would stay home. I had been doing that for a year, so I am quite used to driving an agency remotely. Clients will be a challenge, but most clients are rarely in the same city you are, so a lot is already conducted remotely, though having strategic conversations will be hard."

Carrie Jones, principal of JPA Health, one of the up-and-coming shops to be featured in this year's PRWeek Agency Business Report:
"My crystal ball says we're going to be having a recession, and it will be hard, but healthcare will weather it without too much of a problem. Health is such a large part of the GDP, and it must go on. There's not a lot of fluff going on [in healthcare]."

BCW chief strategy and operations officer Ben Boyd, on how to approach clients:
"I have a client who's knee-deep in managing on a global scale the coronavirus issue for their enterprise. This wouldn't be the time to walk in and talk to them about their corporate brand unless it was through a risk mitigation and risk management lens...I think the imperative is if you're in this business, you're also in your client's business...So that what we're coming to them with is not a sell opportunity, but a support and solve mentality."

Sherry Pudloski, former head of comms at Guardian Life, now EVP and head of corporate affairs and communications at Zoetis:
"The pandemic taps into the talents of comms pros, and we can show our value. I'm on daily calls with the executive team, and I am providing information on how we are reacting...So it's been a way for me to immediately establish my value. I also get to see how my team shines and the incredible work they do and the credibility they have with people across the business and what they can get done. Everybody is stepping up."

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