Coronavirus outbreak: Opportunity in a crisis



By Vi Mai MPRCA, PR Manager, EloQ Communications

Just after a long Tết holiday, Vietnam began to suffer many losses due to nCoV pneumonia. Almost all activities have stagnated, and industries, from education, manufacture to services, are facing the same downturn in business, waiting for the pandemic to be handled thoroughly. However, in that crisis, there are still bright opportunities for many industries.

(T/N: Tết is the name of Lunar New Year holiday in Vietnamese. Tết in 2020 lasted 5 days from Jan 23rd to Jan 29th)

The Coronavirus cripples many branches

Usually, after Tết, students in Vietnam return for a new semester. But because of this pneumonia epidemic, schools across the country have been giving students extra time off. Some schools even delayed its semester until in mid-March in the hope that the situation will temporarily calm down.

Tourism, accommodation, and aviation are the most heavily affected industries, according to the report “nCoV pneumonia brought the black swan event to the stock market at the beginning of 2020,” conducted by the Analysis Department, VNDIRECT Securities.

Wuhan pneumonia caused millions of international and domestic tourists to cancel tours, resulted in many accommodating services and tourism activities stopped operating, along with thousands of temporary unemployed laborers. Many travel agencies complained that they have lost 95% of revenue so far. “The tourism industry is experiencing a great crisis,” commented Mrs. Nguyen Thi Khanh, Permanent Vice Chairman of Ho Chi Minh City Tourism Association, on the current situation. Meanwhile, the travel companies expressed that there is a domino effect in the travelers’ psychology as more people are claiming their refunds and cancelling tours due to the fear of coronavirus.

Mr. Vu The Binh, Permanent Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, shared with VnExpress that tourism is the most vulnerable industry and always takes severe damage during natural disasters, epidemics, or political crises. It is estimated that the tourism industry will undergo a loss of tens of trillion VND after this epidemic and cannot recover immediately.

When the coronavirus epidemic became a global issue, many industries and businesses were affected. The most visible effect is the tourism restriction and border closure between China and other countries. “The US is expected to lose 10 billion USD due to the lack of Chinese tourists, and Vietnam also estimates that there is a 30-40% reduction in the number of tourists this year. But this is only the surface of the iceberg, there are many countries have restricted their citizens on traveling to Vietnam as well as other Asian countries due to fear of the coronavirus pandemic. The impact on tourism will sooner or later lead to problems for other industries.” Dr. Clāra Ly-Le, Managing Director of EloQ Communications, said.

Quoting economist Pham Chi Lan, RFI stated that Vietnam has many economic ties with China, especially in trading, importing, and exporting. In the short term, export industries such as agricultural products, aquacultural and fishery products, and food, will take significant impact. Vietnamese businesses importing goods from China or those whose production activities depend on raw materials from this country may also be influenced, namely, textiles, electronics, consumer, and steel industries.

In the entertainment sector, many Vietnamese singers have postponed or cancelled their shows. For example, Dan Truong, a famous Vietnamese pop singer, informed his fans: “All nine of my shows have been cancelled due to the situation of corona pneumonia outbreak.” Theatre shows were also canceled despite being the favorite entertainment of many Vietnamese people.

According to Dr. Ly-Le, “Coronavirus affects businesses as it takes a toll on workers’ mind, which in turns lowers their productivity. The PR (public relations) industry is also under major influences since many clients are minimizing their PR activities and events due to the sensitive situation, when “overly festive” messages would be deemed inappropriate. Releasing any sensitive information at this time will also affect business operation.”

Public relations finds opportunities in midst of pandemic

“But risks always come with opportunities,” Dr. Ly-Le assessed. Many businesses utilized the current situation to promote their brands by generating useful and positive content for their consumers. Companies took this chance to boost internal communications and internal relations to enhance their reputation and company image. Apple announced on Jan 29th that it would conduct temperature checks for its employees. This action showed respect and concern about employee health, which creates positive images for the Apple company. Some corporations such as Amazon and Facebook also notified their employees to refrain from traveling to China and enacted safety measures to protect employees’ health.

“Other businesses, like Alibaba, have organized CSR initiatives, providing donations for research on coronavirus vaccines and treatment for patients. As the coronavirus pandemic has been in the top of mind of many people and in top keywords for search engines, if businesses promote their activities in line with this event then they will attract more attention than usual. Depending on their decision, some will choose to stay quiet because this is a sensitive moment, and giving inappropriate information will create undesirable effects. For businesses that choose to react, they will create positive impression in the eyes of their customers.”

Dr. Ly-Le concluded: “During this sensitive time, any information, good or bad, will amplify many times because people continuously follow any news related to the coronavirus incident. Therefore, if companies choose to create opportunities for themselves at this time, they need to apply the main principles in PR: ‘Content is King’ and ‘Authenticity is also King.’ That means they must carefully choose what message to deliver, and how to communicate it properly, as well as how to make people see the authenticity in all activities or announcements they make in the present time.”

Author Vi Mai is a PR Manager at EloQ Communications. Vi has ten years of experience in journalism and social media marketing. She is also a strategic planner for many of EloQ’s campaign. The article was originally published on EloQ’s blog.

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