The news about the war in Ukraine is devastating, and it is easy to feel powerless to help, but as well as sending prayers, there are actions you can take too. Below PR chiefs offer advice.
Call it a war, not a crisis
Stuart Bruce, PR futurist and co-founder of agency Purposeful Relations: “I’ve been privileged enough to have worked with the PR and comms teams of the Ukrainian PM and his cabinet, as well as large corporations and tech start-ups in Ukraine. I’ve spoken to and messaged some of my friends and colleagues over the last week. Before the invasion started I worked with clients in Kyiv on crisis communications planning and how they would work with their employees, customers, investors and other stakeholders. When I was doing this I really didn’t believe these plans would ever need to be implemented.
“One clear request from my PR friends in Ukraine is that the media and politicians must always call it an invasion or war. It is not just a crisis, situation or conflict. The euphemisms are part of Putin’s playbook to con people into thinking there is an equivalence, when the reality it is a brutal and powerful invader against a peaceful democratic nation. As PR professionals we need to call out every journalist or politician who describes it as a conflict or crisis.”
Donate to Ukraine directly
Stuart Bruce: “It is vital to ensure donations are targeted to organisations in Ukraine and not just to support the more than a million refugees. It is possible to donate direct to charities in Ukraine, to trade unions and to support the Ukrainian army directly. I’d urge people making financial donations to make it to those organisations, which risk being ignored as people collect goods in the UK to ship to help refugees. Many Ukrainian companies and PR professionals are promoting a special fundraising account at the National Bank of Ukraine to specifically support the Ukrainian army.”
Get your team involved
Lily Germain, senior campaign executive at PR agency Bottle: “As people who live and breathe PR, we consume more news than average, so it feels heavy every morning seeing updates surrounding the war. But, to keep our heads above water, we’re taking a proactive attitude.
“Keeping one eye on the news, our other eye is on initiatives that mean we can help Ukraine. Twitter has helped us find organisations that we can donate to, and we’ve found a local donation collection in Oxfordshire, so we’ve worked as a team to get together a pile of donations to be taken to the Ukrainian border. Pulling together as a team has helped keep our spirits up, as we can work as a community to help those more in need. As we stay informed and talking about the situation, channelling what we know into doing good is, we think, the best way to react to the current news stories.”
Do what you can, then carry on
Sue Cade, independent PR and writer: “This morning I watched breaking news and began crying. Not the best start to the day, but better than for those frightened souls in the Ukraine. On Radio 4 the presenter interviewed a Ukrainian. The interviewer: “Good morning.” The reply: “Not for us it isn’t.”
“Workwise, it’s a challenge knowing what to post on client social media platforms. Do you ignore the situation, do you reference it? Do you use flags and sunflowers? Is it jumping on a bandwagon or does it help to show solidarity?
“A work connection posted on LinkedIn saying he’d decided to take a break for 24 hours to give his thoughts to those with real problems. Then a client asked me to write a LinkedIn post about not constantly looking at the news. Lesson for me there.
“What can you do? One client is asking for donations for coffee and tea into an honesty box. Nice and simple. My community is collecting donations of bedding, old coats, socks, food, sleeping bags, toilet paper and I’ve just taken my offerings. I hope they will help someone.
“Last night I went to a gig with a work associate. We saw comedian Stewart Lee. Should we be watching comedy at this terrible time? Yes, I think so. Because if there’s no hope, no laughter, then what’s the point?”
Advice from PRCA and CIPR
PRCA has urged its members to sever all connection with the Kremlin. Francis Ingham, director general of PRCA, says: Sometimes things are ambiguous. But sometimes they are not. And this is no time for ambiguity. There is a good side here - Ukraine. There is a bad side here - Putin. And PR agencies teams and brands in general need to pick a side.
“History will judge those who make the wrong call with unequivocal contempt. There is no neutrality in the face of the devil. Stand with him if you choose to be a coward. Or stand against him if you choose to have a backbone.
“I have no hesitation in saying this. This is not Russia’s war. This is Putin’s war. But Russia is now a pariah state. And to continue to have a Russian office or to have Russian clients at this moment in time is simply indefensible.”
You can read CIPR’s reaction to the invasion here. Alastair McCapra, CEO of CIPR, says: “This is a worrying time for all and a time for us to make use of the community we have built to support each other and those directly impacted by the conflict. PR practitioners have a number of roles and responsibilities to support businesses, clients, and beyond;
1 “Look at your operations - everything from cyber security to the tone and content of internal communications. Review supply chains, partnerships, and other relationships that might involve Russian state-supported entities, whether they are on the sanctions list or not.
2 “The battle for information is key. Ensure what you share is factual, legitimate, and from trustworthy sources. Finally, do what you can for those on the ground. There are many organisations looking for donations of all kinds.
Sam Kelly, chief marketing officer at AKQA: “The horrifying situation in Ukraine has united people who all want to help. That help can come in various guises and our Ukraine resources page was created with the aim to help people identify the best areas to direct their efforts.”
AKQA’s list of helpful resources covers these areas:
- Giving - links to charities and foundations
- Family - how to talk to children about the situation, how to help Gen Z through it as they monitor the war through Tik Tok, supporting and helping children and families
- Wellness - coping with a stressful news cycle, helping employees in Ukraine, handling anxiety and being mindful of health
- Media - covering misinformation, Twitter accounts of journalists on the ground and experiences of journalists
More information is at https://www.akqa.com/ukraine/
You may be limited as to how much you can help Ukraine right now, but doing something is better than nothing. Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget that it is also important to support everyone’s mental health, so please take care to look after yourself, and those around you.
If you enjoyed this article, sign up for free to our twice weekly editorial alert.
We have six email alerts in total - covering ESG, internal comms, PR jobs and events. Enter your email address below to find out more: