Baaba Cofie (left) & Esi Asante Antwi (right) Founding Partners, Mahogany Consult

We started thinking about the implications of the coronavirus pandemic on our families, our business, clients, organizations and our nation Ghana, when Asia’s cases begun to multiply at an incredible speed.

Why? Because even though it seemed so far away at the time, trade and commerce had already been affected in Ghana, Ghanaian families were desperate to have their loved ones back home, Ghanaian entrepreneurs had been held back in Asian markets and couldn’t travel because of government and aviation directives, imports and exports were grinding to a halt; the world had started slowing down.

When Europe and the U.S. became hard hit with the pandemic, it became obvious that this virus could cripple the world. Now Africa is facing the brunt and the world is watching and waiting. 

 In the midst of the epidemic that has been described by WHO as a global pandemic, we have seen an incredible surge in medical and clinical support in almost every country across the globe. Medical facilities are being stretched over and above their capacities, medical staff are overworked because the virus is new, spreads so rapidly and there isn’t a cure yet.

This has left WHO and the world’s super powers in limbo. 

 On this note, we wish to congratulate our researchers, doctors, nurses, virologists, pharmacists, radiologists, paramedics and all medical and allied personnel who are, at this time, working really hard to save lives and find a cure for COVID – 19. The world is indeed indebted to you!

 Communicators alert! Thinking about this pandemic and all the anxiety surrounding it, fueled by fake news, social media so-called coronavirus informants, and the sheer fearmongering going round, Public Relations and communication personnel are a group of professionals we wish to celebrate as well.

As PR consultants, we cannot but observe the stress and time-consuming efforts that are going into the communication of this global crises.

This is because as PR professionals, we are the official custodians of effective communications; the management of information between organizations/institutions and their various publics/stakeholders as well as facilitators of the mutual relationship

that exist between these organizations /institutions and their publics/stakeholders. At a time like this when COVID -19 has affected literally everyone, you can well guess how much work we have on our plate!

This is not the first time PR and communication experts have had to handle crises but this is definitely unprecedented and no amount of proactive PR practice could have prepared us enough for this. 

 Truth is, ignorance kills and one sure way to fight this pandemic before the intervention of health professionals is to arm everyone with adequate and accurate information on the origin, nature, prevention and treatment of this disease.

Many of us are therefore playing the frontier roles in ensuring that the public has access to timely, reliable and transparent information about COVID -19.

This role is incredibly sensitive as it plays a key role in national and international efforts to inform and educate the public, as well as encourage behavioural change to promote public health in the coming weeks and months. This role is also instrumental in managing public reactions and panic across nations. 

 Crises communication at its peak Since the outbreak of COVID-19, PR professionals in government and other institutions have been working tirelessly round the clock, liaising with medical professionals and decision makers, utilizing every communication technique and channel known to man to package information about this disease for internal and external publics/stakeholders, as well as the general public’s health and safety!

We are churning out on the hour; press releases, posters, flyers, notices, announcements, granting interviews, producing media briefs, organizing press conferences, responding to media enquiries, producing podcasts, videos, audios, social media content, one-on-one engagement materials, all for your health and safety.

Here let us take a moment to thank our sisters and brothers in the media for supporting us to disseminate much of this information. We also are grateful to the inventors of the plethora of digital and social media channels available to ensure everyone hears the news about this virus! 

 Consulting for the consultant!  A crisis situation is a PR professional’s worst nightmare and it is enough having to deal with one in your organization.

However, when you work in a PR Agency like we do, where you provide PR and Communications support to several organizations, handling a crisis situation for all your clients at the same time is crazy! Remember this crisis has hit everyone! So at Mahogany Consult, we are confronted with our own

individual crisis, managing our homes and families, our business and our clients. Good thing is, we had a COVID – 19 policy just before the first case was announced in Ghana.

Within 24 hours, we had equipped our offices with all the personal hygiene products needed to prevent the virus from spreading. Four (4) days after Ghana recorded the 1st case, we equipped our staff to enable us work remotely.

We have been working from home since then.

 Working from home may be a little expensive but necessary. Everyone has access to data and we deploy technology such as audio and video conferencing tools to have meetings and brainstorming sessions. We are able to work effectively with clients using these platforms as well.

So far, we’ve had to provide communication support for clients who have cancelled big events and projects, had COVID – 19 cases in their organizations and developed communication strategies for public education, internal and external communication, social media content, among others. 

 Business Decisions: In – COVID & Post – COVID It is tough to say but in the midst of this human crisis, organizations must still keep an eye on their bottom line for the collective interests and financial security of governments, shareholders, investors, employees, vendors and society as a whole for as the saying goes, ‘money makes the world go round’ and we must add, that it provides the needed funding to fight COVID – 19!

In this regard, organizations are having to take extremely tough decisions to keep businesses afloat for that bright sunny day in the near future, when the world bids COVID – 19 farewell, by cutting down or stopping production lines altogether, compelling employees to take unpaid leaves or in some cases, laying off staff, balancing debt versus increasing unbudgeted expenditures with the many resultant issues.  

 ‘Necessity is said to be the mother of invention’ and as we are seeing across the globe, some companies are having to retool to meet the exigencies of the time. Some of our Public Relations Organization International (PROI) partners are particularly leading this process with some of their clients and literally holding their hands to navigate these unchartered waters.

 Kudos communicators! So while we grapple with communicating the endless information about COVID -19, we at Mahogany Consult, along with other PR professionals elsewhere, are having to, simultaneously, counsel, advise, and support our clients to communicate these

unpleasant decisions internally and externally in a manner that safeguards their cherished relationships with their various publics/stakeholders and protects their reputation and bottom line, but importantly, secures the future for all, post COVID – 19.

 Like the health professionals, we as PR professionals brace ourselves for this herculean task, for this is what we signed up for when we took on this honourable profession aptly defined by the World Assembly of Public Relations Associations: Public Relations is the art and science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizations’ leaders, and implementing planned programmes of action which will serve both the organization and the public interest. 

 The battle is far from over for PR professionals. When this crisis blows over and it surely will, we will still be burning the midnight oil, strategizing how to help individuals, families, organizations, institutions and nations to navigate the phenomenal changes to come post COVID – 19.

In the meantime, we doff off our hats to all our PR and communications colleagues the world over and the many other unseen and unsung heroes of these challenging times!

By Baaba Cofie (left) & Esi Asante Antwi (right) Founding Partners, Mahogany Consult