If nothing else, the COVID19 pandemic has taught (or reminded) us that flexibility, adaptability and change are powerful tools for all aspects of life. Undoubtedly, the COVID19 pandemic has caused the world to rethink many things- the way we socialize, learn and work among others. For PR professionals a similar shift in thinking has occurred. PR professionals operating in the industry today must rethink the way they deliver. In short, we have been able to see first-hand what PR should look like during a pandemic.
Greater Emphasis on the Virtual ICTs
One of the most impactful lessons we’ve learnt from this experience is that a greater reliance on virtual means of communication is crucial during a pandemic. Since a reduction, and in some cases extreme elimination of face to face interactions is required to curtail the spread of the disease, many PR professionals have had to rely more heavily on digital communication. Of course, this shift may not have had as significant an impact on those PR experts who had already embraced digital information and communication tools (ICTs) and successfully integrated them into their operations as it did on those who didn’t (which, in itself, is a lesson on keeping pace with technology and industry trends).
PR activities during a pandemic therefore shift from the physical space to the virtual one. Reliance on platforms such as social media pages and streaming sites increases as brands seek to maintain meaningful connections with their target markets. In order to maintain these connections, PR experts leverage the power of social sharing to deliver press releases, position themselves as contributors on some pages and post content that will resonate with their brand’s target market and capitalize on the power of hashtags to enhance PR campaigns among other things.
Op-Eds are Gold
In a phase characterized by missed deadlines for the publishing of articles as many pieces get passed over in the presence of more pressing pandemic-related news stories, difficulty reaching people via the telephone and reduced (or even eliminated) physical press briefings, op-eds prove quite useful when PR experts need to get the word out there. There are numerous online publications to which these can be submitted, allowing PR departments to deliver their message to millions of subscribers. The great thing about op-eds that are posted online is the fact that they can be delivered asynchronously, unlike face to face communication methods such as press briefings, for example.
More Strategically Planned and Managed Face to Face Engagements
In cases where face to face engagements are absolutely necessary, PR experts today have to consider and apply stricter hygiene policies for these events. These include thorough sanitization, ample space for physical distancing among participants and the wearing and provision or distribution of protective gear such as face shields and masks. Non- touch tools such as microphones and sanitizer dispensers are also important features of today’s face to face PR event.
Sensitivity to Pandemic-Related Issues
Like marketing, PR content needs to reflect the new realities that are brought about by the pandemic. A PR campaign that demonstrates a brand’s ability to relate to or understand the challenges people face during the pandemic is more likely to be successful than one that doesn’t. This includes language and images that demonstrate empathy and encouragement for those who are frustrated by lockdowns, those who are anxious about the pandemic and those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.
As PR experts (and the rest of the world) adjust to a world stricken by a pandemic, we are certainly learning lessons and developing competencies that should equip us for the future
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