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How public relations can help companies during times of grief



IN the past week, the public relations (PR) fraternity has lost two colleagues in succession. The news has been hard to process.

When someone you care about dies, there are often such feelings of grief. This is a normal emotion that manifests itself in different ways.

This got me thinking about what role PR can play in assisting organisations better manage grief. It is a hard emotion to deal with, and often, the toughest part is trying to figure out how to express it. Many keep their grief bottled up, never allowing others to understand what they are going through.

Public relations can help organisations better manage their employees’ grief. This allows them to better express the emotions they are experiencing and, ultimately, better serve the people who are close to them. PR is often the first port of call when an organisation is facing a crisis. There are several ways that PR should help deal with grief.

When something terrible happens, it is natural to feel shock, sadness and other emotions. However, when a crisis strikes, it is difficult to know where to turn. Often, the place where we seek support, information, or just someone to talk to, is from our company or organisation.

A death is difficult for any organisation to deal with. When a colleague passes away, the sudden void they leave can create a feeling of sadness and loneliness in those left behind. It is normal to feel sad and miss the person who has died, but if the grief becomes a problem, one should seek help.

Public relations is often the first thing that comes to mind when helping an organisation respond to a crisis, but there are several ways that PR can help an organisation deal with grief. The first step in this process is to take advantage of the various ways in which a company can effectively respond to a crisis.

The first port of call would help its employees process the loss. Involving the company in funeral arrangements helps employees feel part of the process. The PR department leads in the communications while facilitating aspects such as logistics. Such support by an organisation engenders a sense of belonging, unity and much-needed camaraderie in such times.

The company can make counsellors available to help employees deal with their grief. In conversations with colleagues, we noted how mental health was fast becoming an area of concern in the workplace. Wellness programmes that leave it out are “short changing” their employees. We are hearing of increased cases of people collapsing, which could be a symptom of deeper unresolved emotional issues.

While death can be a very difficult time for those left behind, it can also be a challenging time for the organisations they rely on. Grief can bring out the best in us, when we are at our most vulnerable, but it can also bring out the worst in organisations. The correct public relations approach can assist organisations show their empathy and support.

Public relations is a powerful tool that can help people navigate the stormy waters of grief while providing an opportunity to generate goodwill and improve the reputation of an organisation.

When someone dies, it can be a devastating moment for their family and friends. Accepting that grieving is an emotional process, often people do not know where to turn for help or advice. In a time of grief, many people turn to their local communities for support. But there are other services that companies can provide to those who are grieving, particularly when they face financial challenges.

Organisations may deal with this difficult moment by turning it into an opportunity to build empathy among their audiences. A public relations campaign focused on the cause of death of a colleague can build a connection with people who were otherwise never going to meet the person who died, something that can have a meaningful impact in the grieving process.

However, this is not the only way to deal with such issues. Public relations is also be a useful tool in dealing with a range of issues, including those which cause grief in the community. By using public relations in this way, organisations help to shape their response to the issue and their reputation. It is also a way to build relationships.  

When an organisation experiences grief, it has a profound impact not only on their day-to-day operations. Public relations helps organisations and individuals deal with such difficult situations by creating an environment for healing.

By understanding the causes and symptoms, and how it can manifest itself in the workplace, organisations can take steps to support their employees and clients when they need it most.  

Dealing with grief in this way not only helps to reduce the negative impact it may have on the lives of those affected, but also gives organisations the opportunity to show they understand their employees’ needs and value them.

About the writer: Lenox Mhlanga is a specialist communication consultant and can be contacted on mobile number: +263 772 400 656 and: [email protected]