Role of PR Firms in Mitigating the Corona Pandemic
As the country faces an unprecedented crisis the likes of which never seen before, healthcare communication becomes of paramount importance. The communication between the government and the public not only acts as a lifeline for the people, but it also disseminates vital information and helps in spreading awareness to the masses. During this time, Public Relation firms act as a bridge between people and government. They help build a positive image of their client, be it government agencies, NGOs, religious institutions and corporate organizations, to their respective customers and vendors. PR firms have a fair assessment of the pulse of the public, while also being in the unique position to disseminate information efficiently to national and regional media outlets. Hence, the role of PR firms becomes crucial in communication during a pandemic.
Covid-19 is a pandemic the likes of which the world has not witnessed before. It has already affected the lives of more people worldwide than the last global pandemic of comparable magnitude, that being the Spanish Flu, and it shows no signs of slowing its relentless march of devastation. However, with various vaccinations now being available there is hope. But are vaccination drives enough to halt the spread of this pandemic? The answer is unfortunately no. By the time enough of the world population is inoculated to reach a level of herd-immunity the face of History as we know it will have been changed forever. So, then the question to be asked is. What other measures can be undertaken to prevent such a future? The first course of action towards any disaster mitigation and management is proper communication. This means that the communication being conveyed should be correct and easy to understand by the masses. For a country as big as India, there has to be strong, robust and authorized communication channels that disseminate correct and crucial information to those in need. This information may include availability of hospital beds, plasma donors and oxygen cylinders. Furthermore, certified medical professionals need to broadcast truths and debunk various myths surrounding the virus and its transmission. Lastly, the government needs to reach out to the grassroot level disseminate accurate information about the importance of masks, social distancing and vaccination availability and vaccination centers.
How can PR firms contribute towards facilitating the communication between the Government and the Public?
There are various roles that PR firms can play during this pandemic. They include:
- Implementation of Public Policy.
- Assisting News Media in coverage of government activities.
- Reporting the citizenry on agency activities.
- Increasing the cohesion of various government and non-government agencies.
- Increasing an agency’s sensitivity to the needs of the public.
- Mobilization of support for the agency itself.
Actual Examples of PR Firms Working to Mitigate the Pandemic:
- Publicize Campaigns for Collection and Distribution of Oxygen Cylinders
During this pandemic, mortality in most patients can be prevented by early response and access to basic facilities like oxygen cylinders and crucial life-saving drugs. Government bodies and NGOs are working tirelessly to help people. During this time, PR firms are helping facilitate these agencies by taking their campaigns to the grassroot level. PR firms are proving invaluable when it comes to spreading awareness through various social media channels.
- Digitalization of Oxygen and Plasma Campaigns
It has been documented that people who recover from Covid-19 develop an immunity to the virus that can last for at least 4 to 6 months and up until over a year. There have been various online campaigns urging those who have recovered to donate their plasma for suffering patients, as well as their used oxygen cylinders for refilling and redistribution to the needy. Today PR firms are playing a dual role in this regard.
- Collaborate on philanthropic campaigns & corporate CSR initiatives – More often than not people want to help but do not know how or are unsure as to the safety procedures in place for donors. PR firms are in the best position to understand how to build image of a campaign and how to reach out to the masses. Hence, PR firms have been employed by various NGOs and corporate CSR campaigns that appeal to the philanthropic and humanistic side of public and thus, encouraging them to donate and help those that are less fortunate than themselves.
- PR firms have been engaged with the digitalization effort – PR firms have been hired by various NGOs and corporate agencies to help in the creation of online repositories, which maintain a list of all available donors. A person willing to donate, need to come in person to donate, but only register him/herself as a donor. In case of need, a trained and authorized personnel would collect the donation from the donor at a time and place of their convenience.
Future Scope for Employing PR Firms
There are various important steps to be taken before we see the end of the pandemic. Moving forward can only be accomplished by a confluence of government and people actions. In this effort, Public Relation Firms can prove to be an invaluable asset to government and non-government agencies, religious institutions as well as corporate organizations.
- Essential Commodities Availability
In case of lockdown when raw materials are limited and delivery in intermittent, the public needs to be informed regarding importance of hydration and healthy and easily available foods that can help build immunity and minimize damage caused by the virus. PR firms can help facilitate the dissemination of official news, increase media outreach and work with suppliers of essential goods in spreading information about their inventory, distribution schedules and delivery outlets.
- Gainful Engagement at Home
During lockdown it becomes vital to keep people happy, engaged and productive. This helps people bolster both physical and mental wellbeing. To achieve this the government needs to ensure that there is seamless supply of groceries, medicines and other door-to-door essential services. Lot of yoga gurus, religious sermons and online hobby classes have been launched by religious institutions and corporate agencies. PR firms can be roped in by these organizations to effectively position their message in such a way that the people find it engaging and useful. Only good messaging by these agencies is not enough, they also need the expertise of PR firms to make messaging not only easy to understand, but to also get the public interested in partaking in these indoor engagements.
- Spread Awareness to Prevent the Transmission of the Virus
Government recommends people, including caregivers to reduce transmission by periodically washing their hands, refrain from touching face and cleaning the house daily. It is imperative that people refrain from going out as much as possible, and in case it is unavoidable to maintain proper social distancing norms. Furthermore, the government needs to communicate to the public various methods to prevent airborne transmission of virus. However, a lot of government information and campaigns go unheard by certain sections of the society and are susceptible to being diluted by misinformation and fake news. PR firms can cut through the misleading information and ensure that the accurate information is reaching the public in a time-sensitive manner. PR firms can help reach people of all stratum of society and engage them with mass campaigns that encourage them to follow government regulated protocols.
- Healthcare Capacity Building
Any amount of pandemic preparedness is incomplete, until government can boost capacity for manufacturing PPE kits, masks, rapid diagnostic tests, ventilators and oxygen cylinders. PR firms can be employed by both government agencies and private players who are manufacturing these commodities to help position their products in the market. PR firms can disseminate accurate information of these products, and also position these manufacturing firms in a positive light for the public to see. This will not only help these firms garner visibility for their services, but also help the masses gain awareness about life-saving equipment, medicines, products and services being provided by these firms.
- Realization of Population Needs
The pandemic has impacted all sections of the global population, be it children, youth or elderly. It is important to realize that each segment of population has varying degrees of susceptibility towards the infection. PR firms can help in campaigns aimed to address the needs of the Medical Personnel, Essential Service Providers, Special Needs and Mentally Challenged population. Being sensitive to the needs of the different sections of the society, PR firms are in the best position to reach various government and non-government stakeholders, so that these critical sections of the population have their requirements addressed in an inclusive manner.