How has the pandemic changed public relations?
Communication is the basis of interpersonal relationships. There is no situation or circumstance in which we do not communicate in a certain way. Various phenomena and events such as wars and natural disasters did not stop communication. And the same goes for the coronavirus. COVID-19 certainly influenced the way the message was shaped and the type of channel for transmitting information, but in the end, it always reached its end destination.
PR experts have an extremely important role in every crisis, and the coronavirus pandemic is no exception. It is in such circumstances that have a big responsibility and we are expected to be the first to help our clients, various companies and organizations, for them to see all the risks and to arm themselves with the best possible strategies and tools to ensure optimal and transparent communication with their partners and the public, and more importantly, with their employees.
Companies have realized the importance of investing in their employees. They realized how important is for their employees to be motivated and happy, even though they are locked in a house away from the team and colleagues all the time. Internal communications have become the backbone of PR strategies. We have to get to know each individual and colleague in the team, explore their interests, habits and in accordance with that, create a message and a way to say “thank you” and “you are an extremely important part of the team”.
Although COVID-19 has greatly affected the operations of most industries as the success and growth of PR agencies depend on the success and growth of these companies even though their PR budgets have been drastically reduced, and in some cases, emptied out. Now more than ever, PR has demonstrated its strength and necessity. It is not without reason that some have called this period „a golden age for public relations experts.”
It no longer mattered where our agency was based, whether we are in the city or across the river. Will the briefing meeting be with us or the client… We all worked from the same place, that is from home. Zoom meetings replaced real encounters but the quality was not compromised. We worked harder than ever, devised countless strategies, made the biggest number of phone calls, and “saw” our clients more often than usual. The coronavirus pandemic encouraged us to think better and further, to be courageous in our ideas and suggestions, to look for opportunities and space for communication, even where there are none at first glance, and for our message to be, at the same time, appropriate, sophisticated and reach the right audience. That was not easy to accomplish, especially when all eyes are on the media, lurking at the first opportunity, ready for criticism and condemnation.
“Even though PR budgets have been drastically reduced, and in some cases, emptied out, now more than ever, PR has demonstrated its strength and necessity”
Most companies and clients have taken advantage of this moment to do CSR projects, aware that the local community needs support more than ever. The key role of PR agencies was to quickly identify needs, communicate even faster with institutions and enable efficient use of donations despite all the prohibitions and restrictions imposed by the epidemiological situation.
Above all, we should not forget that our task was to inform our clients and partners about the situation regarding the virus all the time. We sent out daily summaries with information and changes in the rules for entering our country because some of our clients are foreigners who still had to travel.
What happened to events? At first, it was unthinkable to organize them. They were usually postponed and ultimately cancelled. But again, thanks to PR experts who reacted in an agile and creative manner and were open to new options and solutions, an alternative was quickly found without compromising on quality. For clients who needed to organize large offline events during the time of strict measures, with the technical support of our long-term associates, we suggested a very useful solution – organizing online events by choosing a good and stable event streaming platform. Online events was one click of a mouse away and the occasions to hold them were different – workshops, conferences, panel discussions, New Year’s Eve’s in-house parties, etc.
Although some people still choose not to see it, it is obvious from all the aforementioned that spending money on PR is not a cost but an investment. This profession has proven its necessity because a company’s reputation that is built over the years can collapse in an instant without PR experts. Furthermore, the fact is that some practices, such as online events that we had to organize in digital space, have become desirable and will most likely continue to evolve and improve. Certainly, “live” events will continue to be held and the PR profession will always exist, hidden behind masks or without them.