Coronavirus live blog: The impact on PR and comms

PRWeek UK will keep you updated on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting the PR and communications industry.

5 MAY

• PR agency Brazen has pledged to donate 10 per cent of fees from new clients that it wins in this period to coronavirus crisis-related causes. The Manchester-based consultancy made the promise as it announced a new client: online food-delivery challenger brand Foodhub.

• SEC Newgate issued a relatively upbeat trading statement today, saying it had an "excellent start to the current year" and "continues to operate profitably" amid the pandemic.

• The Government's economic relief package has led trust levels to soar to 60 per cent, but the public is not impressed by its handling of testing and PPE supplies. Edelman warns that peaks in trust at times of global disasters are usually followed by a trough. Read the full report and findings.

• A growing numbers of PR professionals around the world have taken advantage of the PRCA’s new support service designed to help communications leaders through the COVID-19 crisis. The support service – which is freely available to all PR professionals around the world – has provided consultations to scores of professionals. Check it out.

• Comms is a secret superpower world leaders can use (or misuse) during the COVID-19 crisis, argues Jessica Duncanson.

• What do a vicar, a tapas bar in Swindon and fearsome political journalist Andrew Neil have in common? Don't worry, it's not an off-colour joke, it's PRWeek's 'Top of the Month' on Doncaster Council's handling of comms during the pandemic.

In defence of the press [during coronavirus]: You get the media you’re willing to pay for. A comment piece by PR pro at BCW (and former hack) Steve Hawkes.


4 MAY

• Despite many social-media stars seeing their income hit by the COVID-19 crisis, industry experts see this as a golden age of influencer marketing – and the long-term impact could be substantial. 


1 MAY

PRs: stop giving your services away to companies for free and volunteer instead, writes Mary Glazkova, vice president of PR and comms at Wheely

Creative Hits & Misses of the Week – Will Holloway, deputy creative director at Fever, offers his take on the best and worst creative campaigns of the past seven days.

• "A terrible idea." That's what our commentator today thinks of PR and marketing folks offering free advice to retain clients’ loyalty and attract new customers. Find out why in Wheely VP of PR and comms Mary Glazkova's piece here. 

• PR agencies have reported an unexpected phenomenon while working in self-isolation – teams are getting closer to each other despite the distance. PRWeek speaks to agency leaders and a behavioural scientist to find out why this is happening and whether it will be sustainable.


30 APRIL

• Engaged employees are crucial for the long-term health of organisations so how do you communicate well with your furloughed staff?

• Nearly two-thirds of PR agencies plan to furlough staff and half are planning redundancies as the coronavirus crisis bites, a new study has revealed. Click here for more findings.

• WPP's CEO is making redundancies but says China has shown the recovery 'can be quick'. Mark Read has said he is "very cautious" about the pace of any recovery in the second half of 2020, partly because of the risk of a second spike in coronavirus cases in some parts of the world. Check out his extensive interview here.

• Children's book brand Ladybird is launching a nice campaign to help children share reading time with family members they can't see during the coronavirus lockdown.


29 APRIL

• Behavioural science has come of age in the time of COVID-19, writes Claire Gillis, CEO at WPP Health.

In its Q1 trading update this morning, WPP reported a 1.4 per cent fall in like-for-like revenue (excluding pass-through costs) in its PR division in the quarter, with a steeper decline in March as the coronavirus crisis deepened. However, the Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Finsbury owner said there was "strong demand for some of our specialist PR services". WPP also outlined more cost-cutting measures.


28 APRIL

PRWeek has announced the winners in its Best Places to Work Awards 2020. We strongly recommend reading the profiles to see how the industry's top employers have adapted their workplace practices following the switch to home-working. Congratulations to all the winners.

• The Healthcare Communications Association has launched a website to enable members to volunteer their services to the NHS and health charities.

•  PR agency Citizen Relations has changed its logo with the coronavirus in mind, flipping the 'C' shape on its side to reveal a rainbow and the 'stay at home' message.


27 APRIL

•  PRWeek has today revealed its annual Top 150 Consultancies list, alongside an in-depth analysis that highlights how the PR industry performed strongly in 2019, before the COVID-19 crisis hit. 

•  ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’ is a frequently heard business maxim. Investing in PR today can position your business to thrive tomorrow, writes Phil Hall at PHA Group.

What type of stories should brands be telling in the COVID-19 'new normal'? A comment piece from Samantha Gunn is senior creative producer at Weber Shandwick.

• The hospitality industry must be ready to ”live with coronavirus” for the foreseeable future, requiring new operating models and communications strategies, according to a food and drink comms expert. Check out the latest edition of The PR Show podcast here.


23 APRIL

Creative Hits & Misses of the Week: Kevan Barber, creative lead at Eulogy, looks at the best and the worst creative offerings from the past seven days.

• Hiscox Action Group has instructed a leading City law firm and is in talks with a litigation funder in its battle against Hiscox Insurance over coronavirus claims.

• Political parties are damned if they go ahead with their party conferences this autumn but, equally, damned if they don't - losing out on a valuable opportunity to engage with the public and media.

• "We’re not playing second fiddle to marketing now" – that's the message from PRWeek editor-in-chief Danny Rogers this week, as he senses some industry optimism and claims "PR is proving its resilience". Read his column here


22 APRIL

• The coronavirus pandemic has forced a total rethink of creative comms campaigns. We examine how things have changed – and ask whether we now need a different, bolder approach.

Airlines face a “real challenge” to strike the right tone when asking for government support and several carriers are likely to collapse, a travel industry communications expert has warned.

• IPG’s boss has warned that Q1 results "cannot be indicative of the remainder of the year" as COVID-19 continues to cast an ominous shadow. The holding group's latest results here.


21 APRIL

To furlough or not to furlough? Agency leaders are divided over whether to take advantage of the Job Retention Scheme unless it is urgently required. Has the idea of furloughing staff become too stigmatised?

• Former Met Police head of news Chris Webb has been appointed as the strategic comms lead for the London Local Resilience Forum’s (LRF) COVID-19 Communication Group, which comprises local councils and regional emergency services. More here


20 APRIL

• The Government's rambling response to the Sunday Times Insight Team article was a mistake - it must stop fighting a rear-guard action and focus on the present, argues Naomi Harris, director at WA Communications.

• Procter & Gamble has said that now is a time for 'doubling down' on its existing marketing plans, as it reported better-than-expected organic sales growth for the first quarter of the year as a result of changing consumer behaviour in the coronavirus pandemic.

• New research from MEPRA has pointed towards a 'torrid time' for Middle East PR as COVID-19 starts to bite. More than 60 per cent of respondents have a negative outlook for their business for the rest of this year, among other stark findings. 


19 APRIL

• Doing their bit in a crisis: TikTok, Tinder, Morrisons and Thameslink are among brands stepping up to the plate this week.

• "Were you prepared for everything that’s happened in the past month? Did you have comms plans in place to address a situation like this? Thought not. But it’s worth asking why not" – Gabe Winn is asking the questions this morning, suggesting that corporate comms should take a leaf from the management consultancy handbook in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.


18 APRIL

• The PRWeek team has picked its comms masterstrokes and missteps of the past seven days in our Tops & Flops of the Week – agree or disagree with their selections?

• William and Kate have narrated a short film encouraging people to take care of their mental wellbeing during the coronavirus crisis, as part of Public Health England’s Every Mind Matters campaign. Watch it here


17 APRIL

• In a new comment piece Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, founder and MD of Clearly PR, highlights four ways COVID-19 has changed our industry indefinitely.

• Jeremy Page, director of KWT Global in London, says it's a time for unleashing some stunning creativity in our industry. From Lego to Channel 4, here are his Creative Hits of the Week. 

• The Government is running a multimillion-pound campaign – 'All in, all together' – across hundreds of newspapers over the next three months, encouraging the nation to stay at home. More here

16 APRIL

• Companies need to drop brand messaging and focus on how their business is reacting to the coronavirus or risk getting burned, according to Nik Govier and Andrew Bloch, guests on the latest edition of The PR Show podcast. They warn it has never been more important to get the tone of communications right.

• Corporate comms is ‘having a good war’ – but practitioners should forget pay rises and bonuses. That's according to PRWeek UK editor-in-chief Danny Rogers, in his latest weekly column.

• An exclusive new PRWeek UK study has found COVID-19 has had a direct impact on the jobs of nearly a third of PR professionals, although this compares favourably to peers in other marcomms disciplines. Check out findings from the research here.

• Something a bit different here. We liked this campaign from Scotch whisky brand Old Pulteney, which, along with creative agency Wire, has created a video and soundtrack that seeks to capture the tranquillity of its coastal home town for consumers at home under lockdown. Pour yourself a wee dram and relax...

• "It’s hard to recall a time when the public held such affection and gratitude for any single organisation" – Kerry Sheahan, head of PR & content at FSE Digital, explains in a thought-provoking comment piece how the NHS is teaching us that you make your own PR.


15 APRIL

• In a deeply-moving op-ed, Jericho Chambers founder and former Edelman EMEA CEO Robert Phillips says the UK is "forcing doctors to play God" because no-one prepared properly for this coronavirus crisis. The pandemic has left him without treatment – "I do not know what will happen next". This is well worth a read.

• The latest holding company to be affected by COVID-19 is Omnicom. Staff reductions, salary slashes and furloughs are taking place across its agencies, CEO John Wren has confirmed in an internal memo. 

• Kerry Sheahan says there are PR lessons from the manner in which the NHS has operated and communicated during this crisis.

• Why are we surprised LADbible is in the daily COVID-19 press briefings? That's what Niamh Spence, from Manifest Manchester, is asking in a pertinent comment piece. 


14 APRIL

• Publicis Groupe is making redundancies across its 5,000-strong UK operation – including in PR – because of the coronavirus downturn.

• Hiscox Insurance faces a potential lawsuit after rejecting claims by businesses affected by the coronavirus. Media Zoo, which had its claim rejected, is leading comms for the group and seeking political support. More here

• The PRCA has exclusively told PRWeek that it is reducing pay for all staff – including director-general Francis Ingham – in response to the COVID-19 crisis and to allow new ways of delivering member services. More on this story here

• Global holding group Publicis has revealed its first coronavirus-affected financial results, and boss Arthur Sadoun has spoken about the pandemic's impact on operations around the world.


9 APRIL

• Premier has launched a virtual PR and publicity division to help clients amid the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

• Long-established agencies in travel and hospitality, in particular, are being devastated due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Leaders Danny Rogers speaks to are trying their best to protect staff, but have been forced into survival mode.

• Here's what the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme means for businesses from an employment law perspective.

• The PRCA’s Global COVID-19 Taskforce has launched a free consultation service to help communications leaders manage their organisations and agencies through the pandemic crisis.

8 APRIL

• As we navigate uncertainty, staying relevant has never been so important for companies and organisations, argues Annalise Coady, president, EMEA, at W2O Group.

• Agencies and businesses are holding on to comms staff and honouring many new-starter contracts, although the recruitment market has taken a dramatic dip, recruitment agents confirm. Read more.


7 APRIL

• About half of freelancers would give up being self-employed, and a similar proportion have lost at least 60 per cent of their income, due to a downturn in work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, an alarming new study has found.

• SEC Newgate has paused new hires and is looking into a range of programmes for employers in its various markets, but does not plan to furlough staff, PRWeek has learned. The group has appointed a new CFO, who will join in June. 

• Employers can access the Job Retention Scheme to continue paying 80% of the salary for employees that would have been laid off. Here’s what you need to know.

• How is the public affairs sector adapting to the crisis? Nick williams, MD of issues and crisis at BCW London explores five ways in which it has changed.

• Which media outlets are consumers turning to for news on the pandemic, and what other trends are we seeing? The second iteration of Havas Media Group's COVID-19 Media Behaviours Report offers some interesting findings.


6 APRIL

• A PR professional has set up a not-for-profit venture, Look After, to help out-of-work PR practitioners provide support to businesses and charities struggling through the coronavirus crisis.

• The coronavirus crisis has exposed how important corporate communications and public affairs has become to the c-suite. It’s time large corporations established a seat at the top table for comms directors.

• An insurer has told PRWeek it will not cover ‘business interruption’ claims due to the government’s decision to close down businesses after Media Zoo (pictured below) had its claim turned down. The agency took out specific coverage for ‘human contagion disease’ in the lead up to the coronavirus pandemic. The case is an important indicator of how insurance firms will treat claims.

• The need for better crisis-handling ability and a more defined sense of corporate purpose was rising up the agenda of FTSE 100 companies even before the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a new report by executive search firm Watson Helsby.

• We Are Social has created a social-distancing Snapchat lens that helps smartphone users ensure they stay at least two metres away from others. The initiative is in response to last week's UN brief.


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