When the World Health Organisation declared COVID 19 in January this year, most nations had no inkling of the challenges it would present in dealing with it. The first and foremost concern was preserving the health of the citizens. Protocols were spelt out and governments across countries ensured that they were diligently followed. The entire focus was on prevention and cure.
COVID-19 led to an unprecedented situation where there was chaos and fear due to the large scale death tolls, globally. Soon came the Domino Effect of the pandemic on the economy. It induced a universal slowdown, where several industries suffered a setback and markets plummeted. Leaders were caught unaware and policies had to be framed, pruned, and discarded, to deal with the uncertainty of economics amidst wide scale deaths, fear and despair. Every industry now sought innovative solutions to this new age crisis and set on the path of reinventing its functions, and at times, even its core.
Impact on different sectors
Travel and Tourism
Travel and tourism were one of the first to feel the impact. With domestic and international borders sealed, travelling for business or leisure came to a standstill. The impact of this reflected proportionately in the Hospitality sector. Rooms of hotels went empty for months before they reinvented themselves as a support system to the fight against the common enemy. They opened their doors to quarantined patients, on-duty doctors, nurses.
The auto industry had to improvise and innovate under the pressing circumstances. Major carmakers shifted their focus to other areas, nudged on by the governments of their respective countries. They got into production of ventilators which was the need of the hour. Also, Two Wheelers and Light Vehicles were selling more. So with an eye to the future, the auto industry immediately set to tap the gap in the market. They have to shift their focus to the rising demand in this sector
Echoing the sentiments of various sectors the IT sector has also been impacted negatively. However, with time the sector witnessed a revival, given the increased demand for IT services to survive in the virtual world. All other industries relied heavily on this sector for frontend as well as backend processes to function remotely and increase engagement with its clients. With some significant players announcing WFH for atleast a year, the cost reduction would make these companies more profitable in near-term.
Tech service providers, particularly startups, suddenly had to gear up to meet a mammoth demand in the field of medicine, lab functions, helping the uninitiated to order groceries, or students to connect to teachers. They have been continuously upgrading or developing new apps. Be it connecting students of schools in remote villages or enabling doctors to meet patients virtually, eCommerce companies are promoting community connectivity through practical, easy to use, cost-effective services.
Financial Services and Fintech
Banks too have made customer-friendly changes. They have given the benefit of a moratorium on loans to its depositors. It has brought doorstep banking to its customers. Cash delivery or pickup, cheque collection, helping senior citizens or the uninitiated to online banking transactions are some of the ways in which the sector is evolving.
Markets, on the other hand, have witnessed increased participation as a substantial section of the population have suffered job losses or salary cuts. In such scenarios, trading and investments serve as a good source of income, be it primary or secondary. Hence SEBI registered broking houses are offering lucrative deals for increasing their customer base.
COVID has caused a disruption in the Fintech space. With a general concern of COVID spreading through currency notes, or people being sceptical about stepping out for any needs that they may have, digital payments and lending services have picked up pace like never before.
Changing landscape of PR
Most of the businesses that have witnessed a downturn, is uncertain of PR. A lot of organisations still associate PR with only amplification of announcements of products and services launch and overall, growth. While this continues to hold true for organisations that have scaled up its business during the pandemic, what the rest are missing is how PR is even more critical and indispensable during times of crisis. There is a pressing need to drive positive narratives about the brand, engage with its customers and establish the reliability of the brand image that is agnostic of the external environment, including Covid-19.
Since many players are unsure of investing in PR in the present situation, PR as a field too has reinvented itself. It is exploring beyond large businesses and tapping new opportunities, be they startups, small and medium businesses or first-time entrepreneurs to widen its client base. It is imperative to increase the client’s visibility and establish brand recall. It is the opportune time for the PR industry to create new brands and be future-ready when things turn to normal. This is also the right time to invest in strong media relationships. Retail, Hospitality, Fashion, Luxury, and others that are seeing a low at the moment, need as much brand validation and customer connect as the IT sector, Healthcare and NGOs. In fact, PR has a lot to contribute, especially in these seemingly idle times.
At a time when corporates are being wary of launching new products or services, it falls on the PR consultancies to promote the brands with more emphasis on community bonding, family, and inclusion of the marginalized. It has to mirror a humane angle. It must have its fingers on the pulse of the targeted client, be it students, young adults, housewives, senior citizens, or the newlyweds with a double income.
While change has been a constant across all verticals, PR too has reinvented itself to serve a clientele with changing needs or even new clients with different needs. Fast-paced decisions have to be taken which are relatable, genuine, practical and cost-effective. Brands have to be positioned as solutions to the challenges society is facing today without sounding utopian or unrealistic. Sectors have to be rebranded, repackaged and sold with emphasis on the changing times. PR is thinking out of the box, acting as a support system, and a bridge between the client and their potential clients. They must work towards dispelling the general mood of negativity.
Authored by Gaurav Patra, Founder, Value360 Communications.