Everything I Needed to Know About Managing in a Quarantine I Learned in PR

The first couple of weeks of stay-at-home orders were hard for me. Like everyone else I suppose, boundaries between home and work blurred, I was anxious about finding groceries and staying healthy, and worried about keeping my kids engaged in school.

But then I started thinking through the day-to-day challenges more strategically, and it occurred to me that I had some tools to make the best of a tough situation. I leaned into what all public relations professionals know is the baseline for a successful campaign: Following a (abridged in this case) strategic communications plan.

First came the goal. Mine was “To get through this quarantine period with minimal impact to my family economically, academically or socially.”

To do that, I have maintained all my work responsibilities, albeit they are getting done in sometimes odd hours of the day or weekend. I’m on top of my kids’ schoolwork but I’m far from helicoptering. And I prioritize having fun and applying a sense of humor, even being a little silly, whenever I can. It’s important to me to keep the mood light.

I also settled on my audiences quickly, because as we always say in PR, it can’t be “everyone.” Now I text with a couple of aunts and uncles, I FaceTime with my dad, I Zoom with a small group of girlfriends. I IM with coworkers, not just about work but about life. I enjoy Sonos with my husband on the back porch when the D.C. weather cuts us a break — and even sometimes when it doesn’t.

Everyone else — soccer team parents, church community, high school reunion committee — will simply have to wait until I have more bandwidth.

My messaging was easy:

  • We have a long road ahead of us.
  • Let’s make the best of it.
  • This, too, will end.

(I’ve had to use some version of each of the messages at least every other day.)

For partnerships, I order often from local delis that have a grocery service since I’ve been barred from the major chains by my uber-compliant husband, and delivery services have been, shall we say, unpredictable.

One or more of these local store owners’ personal phone numbers may now be in my phone so I can make special requests … “Can you spare a loaf of rye this week?” And I’ve made sure to thank these partners. When I do get a delivery, I tip well. I sometimes write a note with their name on it. I let them know they are appreciated and valued.

While these aren’t all the steps of a communications plan — or a quarantine survival plan, as I haven’t even touched the toilet paper inventorying — they have given some structure around which to organize my life these past 2 months. And to be honest, they have given me permission to simply let some things go. (Kind of like a good campaign!)

Right now, with so much of the future up in the air, it feels just a smidge better to have a plan for the here and now. Next up: the mid-course corrections. (Let’s hope we are far beyond mid-course of this pandemic!)

Stay safe and strategic out there.