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.

Coronavirus live blog: The impact on PR and comms

28 MAY

• Nine out of ten Tory comms pros say they will advocate for flexible working or working from home arrangements when the pandemic is over, according to a new survey from Conservatives in Communications. 

27 MAY

• The Cumming furore has, inevitably, given rise to some humorous reaction on social media. We liked this one in particular, which gives a nod to another PRWeek favourite...

• From ‘poorly polishing a turd’ to ‘a lesson in self preservation’ - PR chiefs have reacted to the now infamous Dominic Cummings press conference.

• In non-Cummings news, new research suggests the public want brands to move 'beyond crisis' and be more 'playful'.

• Back to Dom, and has the Government’s decision to back Cummings ‘trashed’ its own public health message? Five public health and healthcare agency comms professionals give their views.

26 MAY

• After a weekend dominated by a certain Mr Cummings, PRWeek has all the plenty of reaction from the communications industry... starting with PR leaders saying the ‘Trumpian’ Cummings defence is a ‘Government comms disaster that could prove deadly’.

• A behavioural scientist tells PRWeek that Cummings' transgression means that 'more people are likely to bend the rules'.

• Our commentator goes a step further, claiming the Government’s failure to keep ‘on message’ could be a matter of life and death.

22 MAY

• ‘Hats off to this borderline cocky and humorous campaign’ – Alec Samways, CEO and head of creative strategy at Splendid Communications, picks his Creative Hits & Misses of the Week.

• From the editor-in-chief: 'We're going back to work, but how much have we changed?'

• In the absence of pubs and festivals, how have alcohol brands adapted to life in lockdown?

• More on brands, with Pumpkin PR founder and chief executive Sarah Owen claiming they should take a lesson from the personal during the pandemic.

'Effective internal comms during COVID-19 could be the difference between success or failure,' says Sky Creative Agency head of communications Dan Walsh. 

21 MAY

"Furloughing has been a lifesaver" – the leadership of new (merged) agency M&C Saatchi Talk has sung the praises of Government support that allowed it to place staff on furlough, rather than having to make "heavy decisions".

Interpublic Group has opened some international locations, but 'will not rush back' to all offices.

• "COVID-19 has given us a hybrid Parliament and a form of politics that forces us to adapt," says Fraser Raleigh, associate director at Newington Communications and former Conservative special adviser.

20 MAY

• Academy Award-winning director Taika Waititi has invited an illustrious group of A-list Hollywood stars to read James and the Giant Peach during lockdown.

• Gousto, the recipe box delivery brand, is inviting consumers to a virtual dinner party with Nick Grimshaw, Paloma Faith, Katherine Ryan and David Haye.

19 MAY

WPP chief executive Mark Read has laid out plans for employees’ return to work, stressing that it will be a "slow and measured process".

• Managing a job and children at the same time is challenging. Here’s how employers can get the most out of PR parents without placing unnecessary pressure on them.

• Has Freuds kept its promise to retain all staff during the coronavirus crisis? Chief executive Arlo Brady talks to PRWeek, while Grayling and Cicero/AMO chiefs also provide updates on their commitments to staff.

• The PR industry’s greatest challenge is to fight the coronavirus infodemic, argues Drew Benvie, founder and CEO of Battenhall.

18 MAY

• Look After has secured a network of 250 volunteers and seven charity partners, keeping furloughed and out of work comms professionals busy during the coronavirus pandemic.

• The pandemic has brought the skills of journalists working in PR to the fore, argues Grant Feller, managing director of GF-Media

15 MAY

• Big Tobacco companies have been using #StayAtHome hashtags, creative and giveaways – including branded masks – to market e-cigarettes, vapes and heated tobacco products. Analysis here.

• 'Snoop's refreshing… and I don't want the smell of my local boozer in my lounge room' – Creative Hits and Misses of the Week.

• ‘The pandemic has changed how internal comms, crisis comms and purpose are valued' – that's what agency leaders from Freuds, Grayling & Cicero/AMO tell PRWeek in a new edition of The PR Show. 

• We buy from the people who understand us and meet our needs. Why small agencies will thrive post-coronavirus, by Holly Ward co-founder of The Forge.

14 MAY

• Downing Street's apparent truce with the media is in tatters this week, after it reverted to selective briefing of media outlets and was criticised for confused messages in Boris Johnson's statement on Sunday - how will this affect its comms on COVID-19, our PRWeek analysis asks.

13 MAY

• It's 100% digital because of COVID-19, but the Women in PR/PRWeek Mentoring Programme is back, and bigger than ever! Find out more information, including an incredible list of 2020 mentors, here.

• The three-part slogan 'Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives' became the core of the government's Covid-19 comms plan between March and the start of May. But how effective was the strategy?

12 MAY

• PR pros have lambasted the new Government #StayAlert' slogan as 'unclear' and 'unhelpful', but it wasn't all negtive. What else did they say?

11 MAY

• Flop of the Month: Hiscox 'reputation' hit by pandemic

• "His task was almost impossible" – our commentator John McTernan dissects how well Boris Johnson performed in his speech to the nation last night.


• It was Catch 22 for the carrier, certainly, but the packed Aer Lingus flight earlier this week was a reputational disaster for the airline industry, argues Steve Double, partner at reputation agency Alder and former head of news for BA.

• "I am truly sorry. Please know this is not your fault." Is the Airbnb co-founder's note explaining 1,900 lay-offs the perfect example of how to lead in crisis?


• 'Fewer redundancies, pay cuts and performance declines in PR' – a comprehensive new study on business performance and staffing has found that, among the marcomms disciplines, comms agency leaders are the least pessimistic about the effect of COVID-19.


• 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.


• 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.


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.


• 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.


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.


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.


• 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.

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