PR brings benefits to the FM sector in challenging times
Written by SHC Senior Consultant Bill Bruce
The facilities management sector has faced unprecedented challenges for more than a year, and World FM Day on 12th May puts the spotlight on an innovative and resilient industry. As the majority of premises are now open or reopening for business, it’s a good time to reflect on our experiences of how PR brought positive benefits to several of our clients.
Three lockdowns closed many workplaces completely and reduced the role of FM to only essential maintenance. As businesses prepared for reopening, FMs had to take responsibility for ensuring that premises were Covid-safe, actioning deep-cleaning, and installing screens and sanitising stations to restore confidence in employees and visitors.
Working with a variety of clients with different connections to facilities management during the pandemic gave the SHC team a unique perspective on the sector’s resilience – and we played an important part in sharing advice and sometimes even good news through traditional PR.
Fourteen months ago, as the potential impact of the pandemic became clear, we held a meeting – on Teams – to develop a strategy to support our clients and the media. Our sympathetic, yet proactive approach was – and remains – appreciated by our clients, who were grateful for the support and saw the need to continue with positive PR.
During the first lockdown, Kimberly-Clark Professional (KCP) commissioned a survey to discover how Covid-19 had affected perceptions of cleanliness and hygiene in the workplace. It showed that three out of four people in the UK did not feel safe going back to the workplace*, and 86% said they would avoid a location if they didn’t think it was Covid secure*.
To better support the FM industry, KCP introduced a programme to help businesses get back on their feet and restore confidence. It included free virtual hygiene walks to identify germ hotspots and help FMs implement new cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
Another of our clients also focused on how to reduce hotspot risk in the workplace, introducing innovative antimicrobial door handles to help break the chain of infection. We also shared P-Wave’s opinion that the perception of cleanliness can be enhanced by premises that smell great.
As premises planned for reopening, we were pleased to use our strong media connections to share our clients’ advice on best practice. Cleaning pioneer Cleanology offered tips on how to reposition cleaning in the new normal, and foodservice packaging company Tri-Star Packaging offered its top tips for safe reopening. We also shared Celebration Packaging thoughts on ‘hygienic dining in the new normal’.
Our founder and managing director Suzanne Howe took the opportunity to share her top tips for marketing strategies at the virtual Manchester Cleaning Show. She talked about the different PR and marketing techniques that cleaning companies can use for a positive impact on winning and retaining customers. SHC has always had a strong relationship with the industry’s events and we are looking forward to meeting our clients and the media as these important networking opportunities return.
From efficiency to wellbeing
FM faces a future where hygiene is not only the top priority but also has to become more of a visible activity. Cleaning doesn’t just need to be better and more frequent, it also needs to be seen to be done. Employee and visitor behaviour has changed and expectations have been raised as people are now more aware of hygiene when away from home. Facilities Managers are no longer just responsible for the fabric and operational efficiency of premises, there now needs to be a new emphasis on the health and wellbeing of the people who work or visit.
Throughout the past year, many of our clients have acknowledged the value and benefit of achieving broad coverage and reaching the relevant audience through PR – maintaining their presence and often creating the opportunity to enhance or improve their reputation.
As life steadily returns to normal, we will continue to support our FM and cleaning sector clients by ensuring that the industry hears about their achievements and opinions. We are certain that in the coming months, there will be more and perhaps even better news to share.
* Source: How has COVID-19 affected perceptions of cleanliness and hygiene? Harris Interactive on behalf of Kimberly-Clark; July 2020. UK n=1,097