Showing empathy in coronavirus communications

Jun 4, 2020 | CIPR, COVID-19, From members

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

By Sarah Ion, Director of Marketing Communications, CIPR

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

This Maya Angelou quote is a favourite of mine and it has rung true during the pandemic.

The past 12 weeks have been tough, haven’t they? The good days have been about the little things and small wins, keeping going, buoying each other when the tide turns. The bad days can feel like you are sinking into the Coronavirus abyss.

At the CIPR we quickly switched lanes as the outbreak developed and it became clear that business was going to be far from usual. From day 1, our sole focus has been on supporting the PR community – and of course it was right to extend some of that support more widely than our membership.

We are all in this together

Since we entered lockdown, marketing and comms at the CIPR has been about customer service. Taking care of our members and speaking up for them. It’s been about delivering the advice, financial assistance and information members need. Helping them by making sure they know what’s available to them and how to access it. We’ve pulled together all the resources we have to help members deliver crisis comms, lead their teams and take care of themselves and each other. This has included signposting benefits like payment breaks for freelancers and independent practitioners, and iprovision – our Benevolent Fund.

We haven’t done this alone. It’s been incredible and heartening to see our volunteers pull together to produce guidance and organise activities to help members communicate in a crisis like no other. The relationship between staff and volunteers has strengthened too – never has it felt more like we’re on the same team.

Showing empathy for the challenges our members face has been easy. It’s real, we’re feeling what members feel and going through what they are going through – personally and professionally. The CIPR is like a professional friend to members, a career partner – and like all good colleagues, we keep it real.

One member said recently that she felt like every email she had from the CIPR was giving her a hug. At a time when physical distancing is taking its toll on us all, emails that release virtual hugs can’t be a bad thing.

Tone of Voice

Tone of voice has been key to our communications during Covid-19. We waited two weeks before sending our first carefully crafted Covid-19 update because every CEO of every shop was filling our mailboxes with messages about staff and customer safety. Emails from supermarkets were particularly heart-warming, but many seemed irrelevant.

I can’t say that the phrase “now, more than ever,” hasn’t been a line that we’ve used, but we steered clear of Covid clichés long before Coronavirus Bingo became a thing and use of the word unprecedented became unprecedented.

At a time when everyone has so much on their minds and so many conflicting priorities, we have made sure that when we contact members, it’s to deliver something relevant, timely and useful. Something that will make a difference to members’ work or to how they feel.

Member support

Our mental health is so important. We were able to launch a fantastic new service for members in April, providing access via Health Assured to a mental health hotline and wellbeing App. Members can speak with a BACP accredited counsellor at any time and the App is packed with self-help plans and resources.

Our long-established business and support helpline (provided by Croner) has been useful to many too – offering help with employment law, health and safety and furlough. This is free and unlimited professional advice that might ordinarily be charged on the clock.

Progress, our new mentoring scheme also launched with CIPR Fellows stepping forward to mentor members at what couldn’t have been a better time.

Looking after our members remains our number one priority. As we slowly leave lockdown and discover what the new ‘normal’ looks like, we’ll be providing motivation and encouragement to keep people thinking about their career development and supporting them to continue with the invaluable work they do.

We are confident that as we all begin to recover from the Coronavirus crisis and adapt to the new world of work that our members will remember how we made them feel and will continue to support us too.

Last week we closed our Covid-19 membership survey. We will be using the results to shape our services over the coming months and continue giving members the support they need.

What’s next?

To find out more about what we’ve been doing for and on behalf of members during Covid-19, visit

Share This