One of our Crisis and Corporate Comms experts at Thrive, Claire has a background in developing and leading the implementation of corporate PR strategies across a number of household-name brands both locally and internationally, particularly those in ‘issues rich’ industries. Starting off her career in London managing the profiles of high-net worth business folk and corporate entities, Claire is no stranger to keeping calm in a crisis and diluting negative media sting. Since expatriating to Australia two years ago, Claire has worked with a number of global consumer brands, with a particular passion for cultivating and maintaining corporate reputations in the entertainment and media space. Claire ‘thrives’ in helping brands navigate the stormy waters of a crisis and is playing an integral role in the team helping clients re-strategise around COVID-19.
What are your observations around the PR industry over the past few weeks?
It’s been a challenging time for us all and one that no brand or marketing manager could have ever foreseen. As companies are forced to reimagine their communications and business strategies on the go, I’ve been amazed at brands making the best out of the new normal, with innovation, collaboration and community at the heart of their decision making. We’ve seen football clubs offer stadium space to the NHS in the UK, oil giants offer free fuel for healthcare workers and entertainment brands like TikTok, launching live content streams with celebrities to motivate the public to #StayAtHome. One thing that’s for sure, is that everyone has become crisis managers in their own right and I’m looking forward to watching our industry adapt and innovate from this, rewriting the rule book and future proofing communication strategies for years to come.
What do you think differentiates organisations who are managing the situation well versus those who are struggling?
Smart brands have been proactive since the offset, keeping audiences updated on their policies and on how they’re protecting customers and employees. Smarter brands have diverted resources to help communities in need. These businesses are flexing their resiliency and commitment to recovery, making the best out of the new normal and are focussed on being good corporate citizens. They are brands that are putting their customers and employees first and building credibility as a partner that can help guide them through this storm. Let’s be real, crises at any level, are disruptive. However, during testing times, communication is the one pillar of business that enables companies to maintain control during a crisis. If executed right, we’ll see brands using empathy as their biggest tool to engage internal and external audiences and take them on the journey to life after COVID-19. In the words of my favourite author and TED talker extraordinaire, Dr Brené Brown; empathy fuels connection because it defines the difference between feeling with people, from the inside looking out, to sympathising with them from the outside looking in. Rarely a response can make something better. What makes something better is a connection, built through earning trust and engaging with audiences.
You’ve worked with some major brands and organisations…what appeals to you about a career in corporate communications?
When I started out, crisis management and corporate communications were intimidating terms illustrated in my mind by men in suits talking big words and reading the Financial Times. What I quickly learnt, after desperately trying to swim in the deep end as a young graduate people pleaser, was that corporate communications is simply founded on the principles of being human; building relationships, taking perspective and crucially, planning. Planning enables us to have the tools we need to quickly activate when needed and ultimately align with business objectives. While consumer PR is focussed on driving sales, brand awareness and engagement, corporate PR enables us to change perceptions, proactively turn the dial and have a wider impact on cultural issues, changing society as we know it.
What’s your top piece of advice for business leaders to navigate the COVID-19 outbreak?
Remember that people won’t remember what you did, but how you behaved. Prioritise empathy first in every communication.