Public Relations 101 For Contractors During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The coronavirus’ sudden impact on many businesses, including HVACR contractors, has been tumultuous. Yet they are still a necessity for families who need comfort, a condition that they will begin to feel is more important as temperatures turn warmer.
The single most crucial element HVAC contractors can convey to customers — both past and new ones — is that you practice a “safety-first policy.” Customers need to know that you are still in business ready to serve them, but that you are adhering to safety guidelines if you need to enter their home. Your ability to convey both service and safety, interlocking them, is a message that is clear and comprehensive, will significantly add to your company’s branding and reputation, and protect you from loss of business that you might otherwise confront.
How do you implement public relations efforts — that are free or inexpensive — which can become a gold mine for strengthening your brand?
Here are reliable tips that every contractor can implement.
Show them, don’t tell ‘em. On your website or in your email, offer a prominent one-page info sheet that explains how your business is directly addressing the coronavirus. For example, Joe’s HVAC Co. is taking the coronavirus seriously and keeping you safe (and your contractors, too) when they make a service call. They all wear masks, protective gloves (that they change after every visit) and plastic booties. Tip. While a tip sheet is excellent, an infographic is better for grabbing attention, and you don’t have to hire a PR pro to write the copy.
Shoot a Video. Create a video and post it on your website explaining your new safety measures. Why print, infographic and a video? People have different preferences for how they absorb information. Some people read, and others watch videos. Whoever manages your website should be able to create a video. Keep it short, three minutes maximum (shorter is even better), wear your uniform if it is part of the dress code for your company, and speak plainly. End the video with your concern about their safety and your efforts to protect them.
Government Guidelines & Your HVACR Business. Throughout the message you send out, regardless of the medium, you must continuously reassure customers that you are following the latest guidelines. From the scientific side, that means the Centers for Disease Control(s) and your state guidelines. Both are critically important, but the latter has even more urgency because which states open and which remain locked down is changing daily. A reasonable step is to visit the White House guidelines for Opening Up America Again.
Enforce the social distance rule. When arriving at a potential job, be sure that you are keeping at least six feet of distance between you and the customer. Explain that beforehand when you set up the appointment.
A Day in a Tech’s Life. The media is looking for stories about how people are coping during this pandemic. Contact your local newspaper or TV station and say that despite the coronavirus, people still have heating and cooling needs. Show how your tech has responded by following the CDC and state protocols. If a newspaper reporter or TV interviewer is interested and wants a customer to be part of the story, be sure to ask the customer for permission. Also, choose the most articulate tech in your crew. All you need is someone who can explain, with enthusiasm, in everyday English, what they do.
Offer a Free Audit. Senior citizens who are at greater risk for the coronavirus will appreciate a free energy audit. Plus, your offer has news appeal. People are about to or have already turned on their air-conditioners. Some will discover their cooling system isn’t working. It is better for all if they discover a problem during an audit before they turn on the system.
Good Deeds Matter. If any of your staff or tech are volunteering by helping others dealing with the coronavirus outside of your company, ask them if they mind sharing their story with the media. The media has a daily need for upbeat stories.
Check the Thermostat. This is where TRC comes in. Explain how important it is to replace a mercury-containing thermostat and that you can quickly and easily replace and recycle it safely. If it contains mercury, drop it off at your participating wholesaler or visit www.thermostat-recycle.org.
Tom Perić is president of PericPR, a Cherry Hill, NJ-based public relations firm. He covered the HVACR industry for 19 years as the editor of HVACR Distribution Business and Distribution Center magazine. His latest book, “Martial Arts: The Lessons,” is slated for publication in fall 2020.