Food for Thought: Communication in the time of Covid-19

Communication in the time of Covid-19

Part 1: Go digital, remain visible

Both trade and general media are predominantly occupied with coverage of the new Coronavirus epidemic: diagnostics, potential therapies, consequences for the healthcare system, for funding/investments as well as logistics, given that supply of chemicals and medical goods from China is declining rapidly.

Conferences are being called off, postponed or switched to virtual conferences (see for updates). Moreover, many companies and even entire countries and regions have imposed travel restrictions. Therefore, video presentations and virtual meetings will become the solution of choice for the upcoming weeks or even months.

As media and public attention is primarily focused on the Coronavirus epidemic, this situation creates a bottleneck for life science industry news that is not related to the outbreak. It is therefore necessary to adapt your communication strategy accordingly.

Here´s a brief outline of general recommendations to remain visible despite the many changes caused by the Coronavirus epidemic:

Further sharpen your company´s story and public image

A weak story will remain unnoticed. Focus on truly relevant news and present it in a catchy, easily understandable way without getting lost in too much detail.

Moreover, investors and reporters want to know if and how Covid-19 has an impact on your company. Do you have a crisis plan in place to compensate for quarantines of key management members and staff? Will the epidemic delay your partnering or financing activities? Or does Covid-19 even offer new business opportunities for your company?

Do not overpromise on your company´s development capabilities with regard to potential cures for SARS-COVID-19 or the prevention of coming epidemics unless you really have something in the pipeline that is near-market. Otherwise, you will lose credibility.

Moreover, review your corporate website and company collateral materials (fact sheets, presentations etc.) to make sure they are updated and to the point. In times of information overload and limited resources, nobody wants to waste time looking for important data.

Use press releases wisely and only if they are of true relevance to the industry.

As Helen Branswell of STAT News pointed out:

“Dear PR professional: If you have a press release that would be of marginal news value in normal times, please don’t send it. It will get zero attention in newsrooms at this point & it will junk up the inboxes of reporters who cannot keep on top of incoming.”

Make your management team visible by ensuring that full CVs and professional photos are featured on your corporate website. Moreover, consider posting brief video interviews with your management team on your website. Visual presence is extremely important in times where face-to-face meetings are not possible.

Increase your communication activities on social media channels like LinkedIn or Twitter

Traditional press releases may not be as impactful as usually (unless they deal with Coronavirus or are major industry news). Instead, refocus your outreach and increase communication via LinkedIn and Twitter. These news channels currently are very important for reaching your target groups. Building a network and increasing communication via these channels should have top priority.

Beef up your presentation skills via videoconferencing platforms

Revise your corporate slide deck. Giving online presentations is different from presenting face-to-face. You will not get direct feedback from your audience and you will not be able to react to it. Also, the degree of distraction among your audience will be much higher online. Therefore, take time to rehearse your video presentation and make it lively and engaging. This will allow you to find the best angle to convey your messages.

Presentations should be improved for visuals, animations, graphs etc. to feature eye-catchers rather than overloading them with too much text. Don’t simply extend your presentations by spreading text over more slides! It’s important to maintain the attention of your audience from start to end rather than to explain each and every detail as this can become distracting. An interesting presentation will increase the chances for follow-up discussions. Respond quickly to questions and have further background information at hand if needed.

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