As a SaaS marketer, if you feel like you’re walking a tightrope between sensitivity and doing business, you’re not alone. With the rapid spread of COVID-19, marketers are scrambling to assess how to move forward when so many aspects of everyday life are screeching to a halt.
Navigating how to communicate with current and potential customers and other stakeholders who are key to SaaS businesses can be especially challenging when all anyone seems to be thinking about is the pandemic unfolding. It’s in your inbox, in the news, on social media and according to Muck Rack, “more than 2.6 million articles have been written about coronavirus since the beginning of the year (this figure *doubled* over the past week).”
With so much information swirling around this topic, it can be hard to know what to do from a media relations perspective. Comment on something unrelated and risk seeming oblivious? Stay silent and risk stalling your company’s efforts in an already unstable market? Comment on the situation and risk sounding tone-deaf? (It’s definitely happening. In the same article referenced above, MuckRack shares “very cringeworthy (and inappropriate)” coronavirus-related PR pitches received by journalists).
PR Guidance During the Coronavirus Pandemic
At BLASTmedia, we’re here to help our clients navigate media conversations, even during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are a few guidelines our team recommends during this complex time:
- Be mindful of your email subject line.
Just as you wouldn’t want to be deceived into clicking into an article purporting to contain crucial information about the virus, journalists don’t want to be tricked into opening your pitch because it contains a certain keyword. So, avoid including “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” in the subject line of your pitch. Global pandemics are not newsjacking opportunities. Journalists, like the rest of us, are tracking critical information about the facts of the pandemic, so emails to them shouldn’t be open to interpretation as public health information.
- Think beyond stories about your company’s remote-work policy or how your software can help employees work from home.
If your organization is working remotely right now — thank you. Allowing your employees to work from their homes when possible is a step in helping stop the spread of the virus. You should be communicating your company’s status and plans to your employees, customers and partners who may be wondering about service interruptions or changes. But, your internal practices — allowing employees to work remotely, the tech you’re using to do so, etc. — aren’t of concern to the media during this time when information is at a premium. Thought leadership on how your tech can help remote workers is also tone-deaf to the severity of the pandemic.
- Engage with journalists who are proactively looking for stories.
The best opportunities for media coverage during this sensitive, sometimes scary time, are inbound requests from journalists. These can come about through conversations with media with which we have relationships, services like HARO and QWOTED or public calls for sources on social media. If a journalist is writing a story to which you can add value, by all means, give them your thoughts. As always, keep comments non-promotional and actionable.
- Continue connecting with trade press on product news and thought leadership.
Trade publications keep industry members abreast of new developments. Unlike national press, many of whom are occupied with coronavirus-related stories, members of the trade media are still seeking out industry-related stories, including company news and thought leadership specific to a given vertical.
- Assess the intent of any related offer.
There are plenty of examples of businesses doing what they can to help customers, employees and communities navigate these uncertain times (Zoom offering free video conferencing to schools, AT&T suspending broadband data caps). If your company wants to offer help — that’s great — but your goal in doing so shouldn’t be to generate press coverage with that offering or gain those individuals/organizations as paying customers in the future. Be critical of any special offerings and the intent behind those, before moving forward.
- Seek out the perception of others familiar with your brand.
This is the time to ask for a second — or even third — opinion about what you plan to communicate and how you plan to communicate it. Ask your PR team and people internally their thoughts on the tone of news and messaging — more brains make for fewer gaffes. If you’re considering doing something to help those impacted, be critical of your offering and be realistic about the time it will take to ramp on the solution. Is it worth it to the people you are trying to help?
The bottom line: this is an uncertain time for everyone on the planet, so situational awareness and sensitivity should be top of mind for external communications. While a sensitive market doesn’t demand silence, you have to be exceptionally intentional with what you say and how you message it. Every software business is trying to navigate communications in this new normal, so consult experts, assess strategies daily and review communications with a critical eye.