The Beast from the East has well and truly arrived – and shows no sign of going away just yet.
What does this mean for the PR industry? As well as understanding the challenges severe weather creates, at Shooting Star we can also spot the endless PR opportunities that spring up.
PR doesn’t stop for anybody or anything – unless there’s a nationwide power cut. That’s why we’ve been in the office all week, continuing to add value to our clients.
For companies and the public sector to survive these conditions, being aware of the potential PR pitfalls (and opportunities) is incredibly important! This is because the way in which we consume news has changed dramatically over the last ten years. With the growth of digital media, more people are turning to social media to find the latest news.
Most of us are guilty of reaching for our phones and digital devices to check the latest travel updates on social media. The continuous stream of snow updates on Twitter and Facebook, by companies and councils up and down the country, are not sent by machines – they are sent by PRs and press officers, in real time.
They are the hidden heroes working day and night to ensure we are all kept informed.
Social media platforms are now the primary and dominant medium to reach the maximum amount of people in the shortest space of time. Depending on your industry and business, engagement online is now becoming critical in times of crisis – be it snow or otherwise.
Across the country, councils, bus and rail companies and the emergency services are using social media to manage and mitigate the unique weather conditions. Councils are using online engagement to make announcements about the condition of public services. Emergency services are using the same platforms to prevent accidents in dangerous conditions. And businesses are using social media to tell their customers that they’re still open for business.
As an example, while most of us were sleeping in the early hours of this morning (Thursday), the Lincolnshire Police press team posted an update on Facebook about the severe weather conditions on the A52 between Skegness and Boston. The road has been closed. By 8am the same morning, that post had been shared more than 2,000 times with an even bigger reach. The amount of police time this has saved is incalculable.
Poor weather conditions cost the British economy £1 billion pounds in lost economic output every day. But for some PR-savvy companies, the snow can create unique PR opportunities.
Yesterday, a Toyota dealership in Lincoln used its four-wheel drive cars to transport NHS staff to hospitals. They also helped take a young family with a new-born baby from hospital to their home. After a successful Facebook post, this was subsequently reported in local Lincoln newspapers and online – creating a great nugget of PR for their company.
Drayton Motors in Louth has also lent some of its cars to the local police to assist stranded drivers.
On a scarier note, a Deliveroo driver put Lincoln’s snowy Steep Hill to good use by sliding down it on a plastic tray. This gives ‘express delivery’ another meaning! His nail-biting ride was filmed and published by the LADbible on Facebook, and the video has over 2 million views.
Having the correct communications plan in place is critical in the 21st century, but ignoring the possible PR opportunities can be just as costly.