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.


• "Greggs is always a win!" - Creative Hits & Misses of the Week, curated by Down At The Social's Daisy Whitehouse.

• "Returning to the office has been an unalloyed pleasure" – Maitland/AMO chief executive Neil Bennett reflects on how working patterns will forever change, but nothing substitutes the buzz and creative spirit that is found in an office.


From the editor-in-chief: the return of sport is an emotional boost, but firms are eyeing 50 per cent revenue drops and job cuts.

• Exclusive: 'Quash Quarantine' campaigners have called for transparency after the Government defended its policy.

• "The public are casualties in the hostile relationship between the Government and media", comments Julian Samways, managing director of JPES Partners.


• Charity to support NHS workers during COVID-19 hires PR agency to 'extensive' brief

• PRWeek commissioned exclusive data from a social analytics firm to discover which government departments have been most effective at using social media so far during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed one of it's first significant agency casualties, with sport and fitness-focused Promote PR sadly being forced to close after 26 years, citing the impact of recent trading conditions.


• 'Three days to get the world clubbing from home' - PRWeek goes Behind the Campaign with Defected Virtual Festival.


• 'Show empathy' – As football returns in England, clubs need to provide the right support to players and coaching staff over the risk of coronavirus. Four sports marketing experts have their say on how clubs should handle comms.

A campaign to ‘quash quarantine’ rules is having remarkable results, with greater longevity in the news cycle than Dominic Cummings. PRWeek’s latest podcast explores further.


• “If you can’t laugh about your job, you must be a hostage negotiator, or very dull at dinner parties” – Seven comedy sketches about PR to keep you laughing in lockdown.


• Necessity is the mother of invention for cultural comms during COVID-19, writes Nina Plowman.

Finsbury has launched a new service to help businesses handle the comms challenges surrounding the return of workforces to offices, following an extended period of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

• Remote-teaching platform Teacherly has hired a new UK PR agency for a COVID-19 campaign, with a brief to position the brand as the leader in collaborative lesson planning in the UK.

• "We've achieved about six billion in terms of PR reach" – The Big Issue has entirely changed its model due to the coronavirus pandemic. Find out more about its digital makeover here.


• The coronavirus is hitting BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) marcomms and media professionals more than their white counterparts in terms of pay and career prospects. That's according to new research for People Like Us, the networking group for minority ethnic professionals in media and marcomms. Click here for more.

• WPP CEO Mark Read has talked about how non-advertising services like public relations have fared better during coronavirus pandemic, and how the holding company plans to make agile working practices permanent. More here

• "In the words of Madonna: music makes the people come together. This year has taught us that pandemics do, too." Can brands show Pride without a parade this year?


• Oil company BP is to cut back its global communications and advocacy team as part of wider plans to make 10,000 redundancies globally.


• A £52m legal claim has been made against Hiscox Insurance after it rejected business interruption claims by businesses, including PR agency Media Zoo, affected by the coronavirus.


• About half the public thinks brands should not speak out on the Black Lives Matter protests convulsing the US, but a similar percentage thinks it is right for them to comment on COVID-19, according to an exclusive survey for PRWeek.

Unilever: Brands must avoid 'opportunistic' behaviour during tragedy – specifically the coronavirus pandemic and the death of George Floyd.


• From the editor-in-chief: Edelman’s u-turn on cuts leaves him red-faced but we should avoid schadenfreude.

• Top speakers from Coca-Cola, Lloyd's, the Civil Aviation Authority & more - plus the chair of Parliament's committee on culture, media and sport - have been confirmed for PRWeek's online Crisis Communications conference. Discounted tickets are still available.


• Easyjet has introduced comic book-inspired facemask covers, aimed at children who fly during the COVID-19 crisis. Check out the campaign, by Taylor Herring, here.

• Big news: Edelman is cutting 390 employees worldwide as the business begins to make a net loss due to coronavirus – only three months after CEO Richard Edelman promised to secure all jobs during the pandemic.

• "How could this comms guru, with his finger on the pulse of the ordinary voter, not accept that he was the main problem afflicting the reputation of the Government he purports to serve?" – no prizes for guessing the identity of May's Flop of the Month.


• How is comms helping BP handle COVID-19 and fulfil its 'net zero' ambition? Our latest edition of The PR Show podcast speaks to BP's Geoff Morrell and H+K Strategies' Chris Pratt.

• SEC Newgate's profitability is "ahead of budget" despite the coronavirus crisis, the group said in its full-year results announcement, adding that most of its UK agencies "significantly improved" their performance in 2019.

• The end of lockdown will not mean a return to business as usual, but the beginning of a new era which may force radical changes to many organisations. Here are ten things CEOs need to do for post-lockdown comms, by Chris Calland, director at Sapience Communications.


• PR and content agency TVC has become one of the first major casualties of the COVID-19 crisis, as it is to close as a standalone business after 22 years, as part of cutbacks by owner The Economist Group.

• Top of the Month: Airbnb CEO gets 'human' tone right amid redundancies.

Industry leaders are getting more confident about the future of their own organisations as the coronavirus crisis continues, new research suggests.

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

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