“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spent it on PR.”
– Bill Gates (Founder, Microsoft)
Coming from a business tycoon of such a high stature these words carry enormous weight and stress the importance of Public Relations for the success of a business. However, when going gets tough, PR is often the first industry to suffer. Companies that are running short on liquidity due to the Covid-19 crisis are feeling reluctant to spend their money on marketing and communication.
Most organizations have hunkered down and gone into a survival mode where they’ve frozen all but essential operations – including PR. But wherever there are dark clouds, there is a silver lining as well. What we should not forget that the communication industry is extremely malleable, which means that it can adapt itself according to this new scenario that has been created because of the pandemic and can still be of use to many organizations. Let us take a look at some of the trends that have emerged in the PR segment during the Covid-19 pandemic and how the industry can help businesses survive this maelstrom.
Providing value to the people
This is a very difficult time for the entire world. Businesses have suffered huge losses; entire countries are under lockdown, and people are out of jobs. At such a time, communication agencies can leverage their massive reach to help the people. For instance, communication agencies can use their network to keep people updated on the latest information and help them stay safe and sound. They can also help their clients get their message across to their customers and remove any uncertainty that might be looming in the air. By providing value to the people during this tough time, the communication agencies can earn a good reputation, which would, no doubt, end up paying dividends in the long run.
Leverage online channels for business
Even before the pandemic reached our shores, the online business was on the rise. More and more industries were turning to the online channel, thanks to the transparency and convenience that it brings to the table. After the pandemic, this phenomenon has only gained more traction.
Since the social distancing protocols and the fear of contracting the dreaded infection has coerced people to stay indoors, more and more people are turning towards online platforms to fulfill their everyday needs – whether it’s chatting with friends and family or ordering groceries and other essential items.
E-commerce was projected to contribute 22% to the total retail sales by 2023. But given the pace at which the companies are adapting themselves to the online format, it appears that this number will be reached by the end of this year only. Communication companies can play a vital role in this process and can not only spread the word about their clients’ venture into the virtual markets but can also ease their transition.
The goldmine that is social media
Since a large chunk of the population is staying indoors, there has been a spike in the number of users that frequent social media websites. There are over 560 million internet users in India and most of them have several social media handles where they post and browse content. There’s an old saying in the business world that “where there are people, there’s an opportunity for business.” At a time when so many companies are struggling to get customers via offline channels, social media can prove to be a boon.
The communication agencies can help their clients craft a valuable social media campaign that can attract a sizeable chunk from such a large pool of potential customers. People still need essential goods and services but they are having a hard time finding them. By taking a proactive approach and reaching out to them instead of waiting for them to come to you, you can help them and yourself at the same time as an organization.
Even if a direct business is not possible at the moment, a business can still increase its fan base by posting about its CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives, motivational and positive content, or anything that might be of value to its followers.
This is a great time to prepare for the future. Communication agencies can help brands at this time to earn trust among the people. Once the pandemic subsides, this fan base can be converted into a customer base quite easily. People are driven towards the organizations that look beyond themselves and help others in times of need – and communication agencies can help the brands get this message across.
Technology to the rescue
If this crisis would have occurred a few decades prior, it could have effectively meant the end of the world as we knew it, but today, we have the support of technology that can help us mitigate this crisis. One thing is quite certain that things are not going to get back to the way they were. The world is going to become technology-driven and a wave of digitization is headed towards us along with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The sooner the companies adapt themselves accordingly, the better they will fare in the new normal.
Technologies like AI, ML, ARVR, and IoT are going to become the norm and the employees as well as the owners need to upskill themselves to keep up with the fast-evolving business world. Even though the best minds of this world are working on a solution, it still could take us a considerable amount of time to mitigate this crisis – given its magnitude. Meanwhile, to keep the economy alive and businesses afloat, the communication industry has a major role to play.
Authored by Geeta Singh, Founder and Managing Director of TYC Communication