While panic buying is causing empty shelves across the UK’s stores and preventing vulnerable people’s access to essential items, Labour has called on the PR and advertising industries to join efforts to better educate the public with campaigns using #covid19advert and #dontshoptillyoudrop hashtags across social media.
‘Panic buying is causing real harm to vulnerable groups and creating anxiety amongst all,’ said Labour’s Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Luke Pollard. ‘Ministers have not reacted fast enough or far enough, and that is why Labour is calling for a mobilisation of advertising and PR agencies to create new TV adverts, newspaper, digital and billboard advertising to take on panic buying.
‘Those who specialise in persuading us to buy products now have the opportunity to save lives with their work. Please step up and help. We need people to do the right thing at this time of national crisis: shop sensibly, stay at home and slow the spread of the virus.’
The PR and comms industry has already been working to support both the businesses they work with and the general public to adapt to life during the outbreak. Labour’s urging for more from an industry ideally placed to communicate best practice during difficult times is particularly welcomed by in-house PR Harold Podol at Modern World Business Solutions, who is already planning how his team can help spread the message.
‘I am truly appreciative to Labour for spreading and pushing this campaign, as it needed to be started. We’ve spent our careers creating viral campaigns and building out marketing strategies that go global. We’re naturally trained and skilled in spreading the word.
‘We felt a fair portion of people bulk buying were relatively young, so while most others will be pushing this campaign on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, we thought we’d try to reach a different audience set by making videos on TikTok to spread the word. We have also been reaching out to influencers we’ve worked in the past about making a video.’
Even where panic buying is bolstering profits for independent companies seeing a surge in sales, the impact is causing unnecessary pressure. Sales at craft company Stitch & Story have increased by over 900% when compared to the same period in 2019 – good for the bottom line, but the team are struggling with demand as people take up knitting to pass the time in self-isolation.
‘We’re hearing from customers who are worried that a lockdown will stop businesses such as ours from functioning and we are having to reaffirm that it is business as usual,’ says co-founder Jen Hoang, who has joined calls for the public to stop panic buying.
Some agencies already creating free campaigns to support #covid19advert and #dontshoptillyoudrop include Scribe PR and One Minute Brief, who have challenged people to take part in creating posters to stop panic buying. How many more will choose to support the effort remains to be seen, but the quick reaction to the COVID-19 crisis from the PR industry shows it has the tools to communicate the right message when it matters.
Read more on how you and your agency can help with the initiative to better educate the public on panic buying in the full statement from Labour here.