13 minute read

Crisis PR: Live Q&A

We recently ran our fifth live recruitment marketing Q&A focusing on crisis PR for recruiters, hosted by Vickie Collinge and Dan Stobbs.

Watch the recording

Here's what was covered:

Vickie CollingeVickie: Hi everyone. I’s Vickie here from BlueSky PR. Thanks to everyone who is joining me, I hope everyone's well and enjoying working from home. I’m a working parent and I can tell you now, I can't wait to get back to the office. I’m sure there are plenty of you who will sympathise at the moment.

My colleague Dan is just joining us; he’s going to be reading out all of your questions for me.

Hi Dan.

Dan StobbsDan: Hi Vickie.

Vickie: I feel like I’m on repeat at the moment, saying I hope everyone’s safe and well. I don’t know about you Dan but I can’t wait to get back to the office.

Dan: Exactly, it will be great won’t it?

Vickie: Definitely.

It’s been a while since I’ve hosted one of these with you Dan, I think we did the first few didn’t we and you and Steph King have taken over the rest of these.

Dan: Well welcome back.

Vickie: I’m glad to get involved actually and I think just for everyone’s benefit really, the focus for this week is questions on managing your PR and comms during the crisis. And the reason I'm getting involved in this one, and made sure I was available to answer any questions on this is because there's a couple of webinars and blog posts and everything else that I've posted previously on this very topic so I was quite keen to answer these questions, because it’s right up my street really.

Crisis PR webinar

So, Dan you've got a couple of questions we've had come in over the last couple of days.

Dan: Yes. I’ll kick off from the start. We’ve had a few DMs come in about this this morning, so I’m going to read out sort of a collated version.

Crisis PR for recruiters

What PR crisis have you helped other recruitment businesses through before and what can we learn from these situations?

Vickie: Okay. I’ll cover off the first point about what crisis we've helped people through before, and if I’m honest with you every crisis is different for every business. And there's no kind of one size fits all process with crisis PR, it really does have to be tailored to your firm, and obviously the current economic climate and environment but I think the biggest PR crisis that we’ve helped firms through previously that's most relevant now is the recession. And the most recent recession anyway. And the financial crash because that was a period of nationwide global crisis. And we had to support a number of clients and yes for our own business as well through very uncertain and difficult times. And the train of thought that every crisis is different, you do have to tailor your response depending on who you are; we did the same for all of our clients during the recession. We had to react and respond based on who they were, what they did how big their business was, what clients they won or lost you know there are so many different factors to take note of when you're managing any crisis PR. But what we can say is there are a number of foundations, which you can follow to make sure that you're putting yourself in the position for the best possible success. And the key for me really would be, first and foremost be vocal.

Crisis PR: be vocal

Again, this helped a number of businesses to navigate through the recession previously. If you are sort of very quiet and are saying nothing to your audiences who may have been used to reading blogs from you regularly, seeing you on social media all the time or reading an article or watching videos of yours all the time, if you suddenly go quiet, the assumption from your audience is going to be that you're not doing very well. And that perhaps in your business is no longer operating. So, we've always advised to stay vocal during times of crisis like this because it just shows people still here. In fact I, you know, I've had that conversation with a few of our clients, as soon as all of this starts to kick off across the UK. And we talked about what comms strategies we could put in place and the key priority was to, if anything, increase how much communication we're pushing out with, with audiences and keep it going, keep vocal.

My second point on that though is to remember to be smart and be professional. I think when you're going through a time of crisis it is all too easy to take things personally and start to get a bit personally involved in conversations. Because it is tough for everybody and people do have very strong opinions in a time of a crisis, but it is important to keep anything you're pushing out, any comms and messaging very professional, because that could come back to bite you in the rear, if you don't. So, do remember that point.

And positivity is another thing that I think has helped people through previous crises like this, or as best as we can compare to this one anyway. And I think being different and being positive is going to really stand out from the crowd at the moment, there's so many negative news items out there that we keep reading. I'm pretty sure you’re all inundated with negative news left, right and centre, but I think if you can be different in the crowd and start to sort of push up positive messages, you know, perhaps how you're going to re-evaluate how you operate as a business going forward and have more people being able to work remotely because this crisis has proven that people can, and actually some really do embrace it, whereas others really do like the office environment. And, you know, at the same time, when I when I talk about being different, that's not just in terms of what messages you're putting out there. It's in terms of your previous strategies that you've had in place, and I think we've covered this often in a live Twitter Q&A before but having the same old comms plan in place that you were going to have for this year isn’t going to be relevant for the rest of the year. So, make sure that you take a different approach and a different strategy as the crisis evolves because what is relevant now is going to be so different, next week and the week after and the week after. So, you know, you do have to make sure that you are differentiate your plans almost on a daily basis.

Crisis PR: positivity

Dan: Fantastic.

Vickie: I think as well, just to add, there are a number of resources on our website that do cover a lot of this this advice so to do check out the BlueSky thinking section on our website, you'll find a wealth of blogs and webinars on there so feel free to check out those if my ramblings aren't making sense.

Dan: And just on that tip we’ve had a DM come in saying:

I furloughed my marketing person a month ago, what should I focus on now as nothing we had planned before she left seems relevant?


So, relating back to what you said Vickie.

Vickie: I think we have hit that point now where a number of agencies who had marketing teams on board had a plan in place for the first couple of weeks of the crisis, and then had to whatever reason phase furloughing staff and marketing has sometimes been cut as a result. But I think the key there is you do still need to seek expert advice, so if you can’t directly approach your marketing person, whether they are on furlough or whatever happened with them. Do seek out expert advice, there are a number of free resources available for recruiters, look at TRN for example, or if you're an APSCo member, they've got all sorts of resources on there that will give you a lot of this guidance. But if that doesn’t give you what you need, my views would be that you need to be reactive in any of your marketing activity, and what you had planned over those few weeks with your marketing person before they left is obviously either used or no longer relevant. I think what you need to be doing now is being guided by what's going on in news agenda. And what's going on in your networks, so monitor what people are saying and how people are responding to certain conversations and use that to feed your marketing and comms activity. If you have regular mailers going out then perhaps consider a more personable approach, so you know, a letter from your CEO, you know, if you're the one managing it have a personal letter that you're sending out to his contacts but just remember those points earlier about being different, being positive and being smart in what you're saying. Be guided by what other people are engaging with but also get your personality across and keep it professional. I think as well, that whole need to be reactive is included in, in, in joining in with conversations online. So, make sure that you are getting involved in conversation, so when you might not perhaps be able to push out as many marketing and comms activities that you used to with your person who is now furloughed. You can do any type of social media instead as a little bit of a, kind of, go between until you can get that person back in and get things moving again.

Seek our expert advice when you can, be guided by what’s going on in the news agenda, and just keep talking; keep communicating because that’s what’s going to be crucial for businesses at the moment. I hope that answers that question.

Crisis PR: social media

Dan: Just in regards to social media, a lot of recruitment firms don’t realise they have a lot of evergreen content in terms of resources and blogs on their website as well. So, a quick fix you can do is look at some of your older blogs and see if there's anything relevant to the situation now, you might have a lot of blogs on staff development and employee engagement and things like that. So, feel free to re-share those or you know maybe just go back into the blog itself and give it a quick tweak at the top just to make it a bit more relevant to what’s going on at the moment. That’s just a simple way of getting a quick win in terms of your marketing.

Vickie: Absolutely and there's so much advice around that we had before you know a couple years ago that can still be relevant now, have a look at what you can repurpose. As a case and point I keep referencing the stuff we have on our website – there’s a crisis PR webinar on there, and as I've gone back through that, the advice I'm giving is very relevant now so you know there’s so much content you have available already that you can use and you might not even think of now but that’s perhaps a year or two old. So, definitely go back and review what you’ve got.

Dan: Exactly. And we’ve just got another DM through and it says:

My staff are furloughed but I want to keep them engaged, what can they do to keep informed and involved?

Vickie: Okay. So, there are a couple of things on that one. First and foremost training, keep your staff involved and engaged with training there's so many available resources out there for you at the moment. I mentioned TRN again earlier and APSCo and they both have resources available for consultants who are looking at developing their skills while they're on furlough and I think what is crucial now is, while we're in this period of uncertainty and with some consultants on furlough, that we're looking at developing the skills of the recruitment industry so that we can best weather the storm as we as we emerge from this and reach the point of a bounce back.

Myself and my colleague Steph King for example are recording a free training session as part of our connection with TRN that’s going to give consultants the advice and tips on how they can manage their personal brand, so that they can set themselves up for success during the bounce back. And really your BD is what they're going to need to get their business to grow in the future in what will be a new normal. And so skills and training and development is one thing that you know all consultants need to be focusing on and as a business owner, encouraging them to look at developing their skills and use this time wisely will certainly help to keep them engaged. So, when you get them back in they're raring to go, and not just you know desperate to get back in the job, but to develop new skills that can help them achieve the best possible success in what is going to be a very strange new world for all of us. I think well, you know make sure that you're encouraging and letting people know that may not be in the office but they're still part of the team. And look at how you could use maybe your social media channels to keep everyone together and I'm sure there's been so many cases of agencies hosting pub quizzes on Zoom with the team and just take a simple picture of it and putting it on Facebook pages on their Twitter pages and getting some engagement, again they want to engage there, and you can almost see the positivity and the uplifting spirit that is clearly apparent from all the posts that staff are putting on there. So, they might not be working for you in the office and might not be be working for you right now but they are still part of your work family and they still want to be engaged with. And actually they are another audience for you because you've got to remember once we do eventually come out of this, there is going to be a demand for talent at some point, and you need to make sure that you’ve got the best staff engaged when that happens and that they are not going to be lost to the to the competition, so keeping them having that sense and feeling of being part of a team is still key. And get them to share anything, share their training with their networks – what have they learnt in the last two, three weeks that’s been different. How do they think that the world of recruitment is going to change because they still have this huge network of people they know, they might not be able to work for you but the network of people that they’ve been used to dealing with every day for however long they've been working for you, they’re still going to want to see that engagement. Even if they share pictures of themselves learning a new art or learning something new, it shows they're still there. And they're still growing they're coping and when it comes back to the bounce back that they're going to be there and available to help clients again, so you know encourage them to do that as well, and it will help keep them engaged. And ask them what they want to do. They may want to host their own pub quizzes in the nicest way possible without certain senior members of the team, they might want to set up their own little hub groups that they would have done in office, they may want to do something for charity as a team, ask them and see what else other people want to do and what would help your staff as well.

Team virtual pub quiz

I went off on a bit of a tangent there.

Dan: No, that's definitely relevant what you’ve said there Vickie. And we’ve just got another question.

I keep reading articles about how to hire during the coronavirus crisis and about staff engagement during the crisis that I have opinions on, how can I get involved in the conversation, besides making personal posts on LinkedIn?

Vickie: Okay. And that's a really, really important point actually, because we are seeing more people be very vocal, I mean I certainly am any way on LinkedIn and sharing their thoughts and views, and they are often view that are actually of interest beyond your immediate network. So, there are a couple of things you can do with this. If you do have any experience with media, or if you have anyone in the business who is still working with you who has experience in the media, perhaps your marketing person or if you have a PR team for example, those opinions should certainly be pushed out beyond your immediate network. See if there is interest in your industry specific publications for example, at the moment as there is so much uncertainty, any experts that have valid and well thought through advice, opinions and guidance is going to be in high demand. So, if you have a particular point or particular opinion that you're certainly going to add some value to or your audiences there's likely to be a number of publications that would be interested in that. That is something that I would say if you're going to go down that route you have to carefully manage and dealing with the press is a process that you do have to have some experience of or have professional guidance, you know, before you go down that route, so just bear that in mind. But beyond your LinkedIn groups, there are so many other social media channels you can share your opinion on, and there's the opportunity to record a video rather than just join that conversation from someone else, perhaps record a video where you're leading your own conversation, drive that conversation and topic rather than just letting others comment on it. And consider how you perhaps have a blog on your own website where you're expanding on it a bit more. That can then be pushed out from your social challenges, linked to it in any marketing emails that you're putting out, and as long as you’re using the right key phrases and you’ve search engine optimised that blog, the likelihood is you'll get an increase in organic traffic that's going to be relevant to you as a business. And that's going to give you more opportunity to give your views and thoughts. And consider if it's worth looking at working with the person who's driving that conversation as well, that post on LinkedIn. And, you know, if you have a very strong opinion for or against whatever that person has said, keep it obviously professional but, maybe speak to that individual and see if there's a way of collaborating to spread that message far and wide. And I think that’s one crucial thing that's come out of all of this, is more people are working together. So if there is if someone has a particular topic, or a question they posed, that you are able to guide on and have a particular opinion on, see how you could work together to tap into your wider networks together, and push your views out that way. That’s another thing to consider.

I hope that answers that one.


If any of these questions resonate with you, we'd love to hear from you. Please do add your two cents to this conversation too. If you’re watching this either now or later down the line and you think, actually that's a really good point or actually I have something else to say, join the conversation with us because we’d love to hear from you. And if there are other experiences you've had that have worked over the last couple of weeks, share it with us, we’d love to see what everyone’s doing as well.

Dan: I think that’s the last question that we've had in. As I said, the first question that you answered today a lot of people submitted that so I think that is all of them unless we get any last minute DMs come through Vickie.

Vickie: Perfect. If anyone has any other questions, just message us either on Twitter or you can contact us through our website as well. We can answer your questions and look back through our resources, some questions may be answerable through content we have on our site but do keep posting questions our way.

The next Twitter Q&A we're hosting will be in two week's time, keep an eye on our social media channels for the topic, it will be guided by you guys again as you're sending us questions, we'll make sure that we're steering the Q&A based on what you want to know about. So, keep sending us your questions everybody, we're really enjoying answering them. We would love to hear from you.

Dan: Definitely. So, just to recap it will be on the 18th of May the next Twitter Q&A, so do get your questions in for that one.

Vickie: Perfect, great. Well if that is everything, Dan I will speak to you soon. Bye everybody.

Dan: Thank you everyone. Take care guys.

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