COVID Impact: Public Affairs Campaigns.

COVID-19 has changed how public affairs campaigns operate, regardless of how much you might have planned and prepared. More than any other event in recent memory, this pandemic has dramatically altered our political, social, and economic priorities. Some industries and companies have had their world completely turned upside down, while others have only faced minimal disruption from COVID-19. The pandemic has even given some issue areas a temporary reprieve from the benefits or threats of federal or state legislation. For these industries, now is the time to prepare for the politics, opinions, and issues of a post-COVID-19 world. How your public affairs campaign should proceed will vary based on your industry and campaign, but there are a few important questions to ask yourself as you plan a path forward:
  1. What does your key audience care about? Nearly all Americans are concerned about COVID-19. If you’re looking to reach an elected official, it’s safe to assume their only concerns right now are how to get their constituents through the next few months as safely and healthily as possible. It’s important to consider whether your key audience is preoccupied by the crisis at hand and whether it makes more sense to keep your powder dry until the air has cleared.
  2. Do you have a positive story to tell? Over the last few weeks, the media has been almost exclusively focused on COVID-19. That attention doesn’t mean your organization should create COVID-19 messaging just so you can shorehorn your way into the conversation. If there’s a meaningful way your organization or industry is helping people during this difficult time, that’s a story worth telling. But trying to insert yourself into a crowded media environment on a serious topic just for the sake of PR wastes time and could backfire on you reputationally.
  3. What are the long-term risks? It’s increasingly difficult to know what life will look like in a few weeks, much less a few months. For organizations weighing whether to continue or delay their public affairs campaign, think strategically about how your work will be viewed in a best- and worst-case scenario. If there’s a chance you could set your organization or industry back by being active now, it may be smarter and more cost-effective to put your goals on hold temporarily.
Public affairs campaigns are often planned weeks or months in advance. It can be difficult or even impossible to pivot your messaging in the face of an unprecedented global crisis like COVID-19. But, by staying calm and using this time to think critically and focus on the future, your organization will be well-positioned to reach its goals once the world returns to something resembling normal.


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