The year 2020 witnessed an unprecedented disruption across industries, inducing the need to adapt, change and equip fast enough to address the changing needs of the time. From education to healthcare to pharma, the changes unleashed by the impact of the pandemic have brought about paradigm shifts in multiple industries. The public relations industry has been no different.
On the one hand, the crisis forced organizations to have a re-look at their communication strategies and marketing budgets. On the other hand, it underlined the need for effective crisis and reputation management. With a major shift towards the digital medium, the emergence of virtual events as mainstream and the shrinking of the traditional media space, the pandemic has ushered in long-lasting changes in the way communication strategies are planned and executed.
Evidently, the public relations industry has been compelled to execute new ideas and strategies and establish new practices to fulfill its mandates. Many of these changes are here to stay for good, even after the pandemic subsides.
Towards a more integrated communications approach
A shift towards more integrated marketing and communication strategies has been a major change brought about by the pandemic. A number of factors such as expansion of the new (digital) media space, shrinking of advertising budgets and the need to create a cohesive long-term communication strategy have led to the emergence of PR as an important communication element. Despite gaining prominence over the past two decades, PR had continued to be relegated to a secondary position by many organizations with advertising getting a lion’s share of attention. However, post the pandemic as marketing budgets were slashed, more companies realized the cost-effectiveness of PR and its long-term benefits. Organizations are today assiduously crafting communication campaigns that consciously integrate all approaches including marketing, advertising, PR, and digital media outreach. The constant need to manage their image, handle crisis communications in times of a global crisis and create a positive brand identity through multiple channels has further engendered this shift.
Corporate Communication teams are also remodeling themselves to look at marketing as a more integrated approach, setting definitive and different achievable from different communication strategies. Clearly, Public Relations has today become integral to the overall communication approaches of organizations across industries.
Digital and social media channels gain prominence
Another marked shift brought about by the pandemic has been a greater shift towards digital and social media channels. With consistently increasing online viewership, the influence of digital media has grown manifold, and organizations today cannot afford to overlook the importance of these channels. Even as traditional media continues to be crucial, companies today are increasingly demanding dedicated strategies to use digital media for greater audience outreach.
PR agencies are responding to this shift by diversifying their product bouquets. They can no longer satisfy their clients by just catering to the traditional media. Digital and social media have become critical elements of PR strategies. Naturally, agencies are today offering a wider service portfolio to their customers including media management, crisis communication, and social and digital media strategies.
Virtual events become a norm
Press conferences, events, product launches, panel discussions, and expert conferences are critical elements of media engagement strategies of organizations. However, the pandemic has forced most of these physical events to shift to the online mode. With virtual events becoming a norm, rather than an exception, we need clearer and well-defined PR strategies today to leverage these events for media visibility. This also presents a new challenge for PR professionals in terms of the restructuring of event plans to deal with technological and communication logistics and to get all participants their share of time and substance in a virtual meet.
Many companies have realized that while virtual events and launches may not be as attractive and glamorous as physical ones, they are highly cost-effective. Even after the pandemic subsides, the industry will continue to conduct a mix of physical and virtual events.
New strategies to ensure visibility
Every crisis also comes with its share of opportunities. The Covid-19 crisis has spurred a churning for new ideas and approaches in the PR industry. With the conventional newspaper space witnessing an unprecedented change and dependence increasing on digital media, PR agencies have overhauled and redefined their media strategies. Dedicated digital media plans, separate social media strategies, and consistent monitoring of new trends in this space are going to define the future. The use of Big data, Artificial intelligence, and other technological advancements will redefine the industry practices in 2021.
Authored article by Nikky Gupta, Co-founder, and Director, Teamwork Communications Group.