Public Relations During a Pandemic

I think it is safe to say that none of us expected to be working from home and staying under quarantine for this long. I’m grateful to have a team that has stuck together through these times and continue to stay safe and work in a completely virtual environment. Our weekly Zoom meetings and constant contact reassures me that there are things that will stay the same during this time of change.

However, the world of public relations and communications, as well as the world that we work in, are going to change. As we approach the end of the year, professionals are already seeing many trends that are affecting PR and what we can expect in 2021. Here is what they have to say about current industry updates.

1. Going (And Staying) Virtual

The need for applications such as Facetime, Zoom and Microsoft Teams has risen exponentially, and adapting to virtual communications has been a new aspect in many workplaces. These are being used both for internal communication and for special events. HBI itself has taken advantage of many of these tools for virtual client events, fundraisers and educational webinars, and it looks like the virtual age is here to stay for a while. While we continue to utilize these tools, remember that human connections are still just as important as ever. In this new virtual era, PR pros will need to continue to perfect the art of building relationships outside of an in-person environment.

“The digital experience is now the human experience. Consumers still crave human-to-human connection. How can you create a more personalized, human experience online? Virtual events, authentic content (especially video) and empathy (a lot of empathy).” 

           — Ragan Communications

2. Results, Results, Results

While virtual gatherings and events have been successful, they can start to feel overdone and limiting in terms of what you can and cannot do. Additionally, “Zoom burnout” is a real thing, and many people tend to lose interest in face-to-face virtual participation. Many PR professionals are starting to feel that with the popularity and reuse of virtual events, clients are going to expect more in terms of results, ideas and creativity.

“PR professionals are great at coming up with creative ideas for pitches and campaigns that get their clients’ messages ‘out there.’ But brands are demanding more. Their budgets are being squeezed and they need greater reporting in the form of tangible returns on their investment. This isn’t anything new, of course, but it will invariably accelerate the need for PR practitioners to assume much of the functions more commonly associated with digital agencies (amplification and SEO, for example) in the same way that these agencies have increasingly been introducing a PR element to their service offering.”

            — PR Week

Additionally, influencers will need to adapt in order to compete as well.

“Traditional influencers, whether social or organizational, still need to ‘influence,’ but they’re running out of things to say that can add any real value at a time of crisis. This won’t be the death knell for influencer-management culture as we know it; rather, the savvy ones will reinvent and rebrand themselves in ways that demonstrate their value.”

            –PR Week

3. Transparency is Key

As communicators, we need to be as transparent as possible. During this pandemic, health and safety is on everybody’s mind, and that is not likely to change any time soon. Brands and agencies both will continue to shift into new health practices and consider the health of their clients and colleagues as well. With this being said, PR pros will need to prioritize the health and safety of clients and consumers.

“Consumers are not only purchasing more health-related products, like hand sanitizer and immunity boosters, but they are also more likely to purchase from a brand that they perceive to be safe and minimize unnecessary risk. A recent Consumer Index Report by Ernst & Young reports that 26% of consumers surveyed prefer brands and products they trust to be safe and minimize unnecessary risks. Fifty-seven percent say they now pay more attention to how healthy the products they buy are for them.”

            –Ragan Communications

During this pandemic, and well after the pandemic is over, PR pros and communicators will continue to focus on the fragile state of our world. Speak up and let your clients know what you are doing at this time to remain safe while still putting in your best effort to help them with their needs.

Public relations will continue to adapt to the world we currently live in but if there is one aspect we can count on, it is that the industry will grow and learn as a result.

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