Over the past 15 months, the global pandemic has challenged mankind in so many ways, from our very existence to the way we do business, and thankfully, the worst part appears to be behind us. As life goes on, so is the need to communicate, promote, salvage, interact, advise, contain, create – connections, ideas, plans, and messages; the very core of what PR firms do.
As I try and grasp what the new, post-Covid world means to our industry, I am purposely avoiding big words like resurrection, rebirth, reconstruction, 2.0s, or some other paradigm shift. I truly believe the changes will involve simple adaptation with a few workload shifts – challenges in which communication firms are very good at handling. Business as usual, with a hint of versatility, in-depth thinking and planning, and a cusp of backup. Nothing really new for us, right?
Using personal experience, professional logic, business perspective – and a bit of intuition, of course – here is my list of tips that may help communicators in preparing for the changes as the world and our industry turn from crisis management to routine containment during the Covid-19 pandemic.
First, here are a few post-Covid business approaches from a client perspective and what communications professionals must be prepared for when servicing their needs:
- We went through it like fish through water, so keep going – This is the mentality of companies and brands that were not seriously affected by the pandemic, either because they are online-based businesses that thrived during lockdowns, or they had prepared crisis modes put in place in their workflow.
- Crisis means opportunity – Say those businesses that struggled during the pandemic and are keen to leverage most communication opportunities stemming from partial or complete social relaxation measures. This approach likely pertains to retail, auto, FMCG, clothing brands, medical services, and business services such as consulting, finance and law.
- Time to get back on track – This type of attitude most likely describes businesses that suffered severe setbacks due to the pandemic and now need more strategic support than meeting basic objectives, such as generating new demand or raising awareness.
Having looked at the likely attitudes businesses may follow, let us now collect some possible approaches, mindsets, and workflow tips communications professionals must consider in the new environment:
Plan B is a must. The pandemic crisis is not over; specialists say more waves should be expected this fall or next year, albeit less destructive or widespread than what we have witnessed already. When making new plans – whether it be a product launch, a corporate communication plan, or a crisis management template – do it as if another lockdown could happen at any moment. For example, double up your outdoor campaign proposal by adding an online version. If a new Covid-19 wave may impact the business, complete your internal communications or strategic communications plan with business continuity or contingency options. Prepare as if Covid-19 could hit the business again.
Use emotions. People can see and touch each other and experience being together again. This will naturally generate significant outbursts of emotions. When planning a short or mid-term communication effort, keep in mind that people have a natural tendency to get emotional about togetherness. Depending on the audience or the type of communication effort, consider reluctance, hope, joy, fear, and enthusiasm when planning or designing a communication plan. Try and leverage these emotions for your objectives. This is especially true for public events.
“As before” is not an option. Regardless of the type of business, the pandemic has left indelible marks on everything ranging from supply chains and business models through customer base behaviors to products and services. You may not be short of clients hoping to get back to what was, “business as usual” in 2019, but bear in mind that change is inevitable and prepare context and arguments to support that.
Prudence is here to stay. The world is barely reeling from a massive trauma that left a significant impact. Despite a seemingly general sentiment of relief, the expectation is that in most cases, the public may timidly and even reluctantly get back to lifestyle habits they deemed as ”normal” before the pandemic. When planning communication efforts, ensure that promises are kept moderate, and expectations are well-managed with explanations and context. We are navigating in risk-sensitive times when “delivered as promised” cannot be taken for granted, and outcomes highly depend on various external and internal circumstances.
Even if it comes with additional effort, the most reasonable approach for a public communications professional is to hope for the best and be prepared for the worst when planning campaigns and services. Keep in mind that change is inevitable and massive, albeit subtle. That said, are we not said to be some of the best managers of change?