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PR in the post COVID world

The last few months have seen the COVID-19 pandemic affect industries all over the world. The circumstances have led to a drastic change in how businesses operate, and at the same time, transformed the concept of public relations. The way a company conducts its public relations in sensitive times like these is vital to its reputation. Our clients clearly understand this well, and I have noticed a positive shift in their mindsets towards adopting new-age tactics and exploring strategies outside the realm of traditional PR.

Until recently, communication strategies were still preferential towards traditional PR channels, such as press releases and interviews through the legacy media, like print and radio. Post-COVID-19, with the print of major newspapers and magazines coming to a halt in the UAE, clients realised the value of employing digital PR tactics. Radio, too, saw a significant drop in its listeners, with people no longer commuting to work and, thus, not listening to the radio. This meant clients had to commit to exploring contemporary methods in the digital space to ensure they can still reach their audiences. While press releases and interviews remain important tools, some of their angles can now be converted to online videos or infographics that make the communication better-suited to a target audience.

A disruption such as this should have happened a long time ago, with digital undoubtedly being the future. The COVID-19 era has, however, given this transition the push it needed. A PR professional must adapt to this development and transition their clients’ communication strategy with the times.

Here are some tips on how PR professionals can prepare for the post-COVID-19 market:

Optimise your relationship with clients

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means that client needs are constantly shifting. It is thus crucial in these times for a communication professional to find new ways of supporting businesses as well as strengthening their relationship with clients. Given the constantly developing nature of the current situation, trust between the client and PR consultants is essential to have an effective strategy. PR professionals must, therefore, establish deeper levels of trust to become more valued partners. A healthy relationship with the client is key to having a quick turn-around time, which allows you to react to the evolving market conditions.

Focus on adding value before profits

At a time when people all around us are suffering due to the impact of the virus, it is important to have a humanitarian outlook and not chase profits. It is also vital to stay safe and ensure the safety of others.

One must, therefore, look at ways of adding value to people’s lives in these critical times. For instance, your experience in communications and your social media presence can be used to share important information and keeping people up to date. It is the least we can do to help society at a time like this, and as a bonus, the goodwill and respect earned from this will pay dividends to the reputation of your business for years to come.

Implement New Technologies

The world will be a different place when this pandemic is over. The economic recession that has resulted from to virus will have long term consequences. Therefore, businesses will be looking at technology for ways to safeguard themselves from any future pandemics of a similar nature.

Theories suggest a large number of offices will become virtual and shift to permanently working from home in the future due to the flexibility it offers and the drastic savings in operating expenses. Additionally, given the highly dependent nature of the PR industry on clients and the fragile nature of smaller agencies, PR firms must also look at implementing new technologies to streamline their operations.

Communication professionals on a personal level must also take advantage of online courses to improve their skills and adapt to new technologies ahead of their widespread implementation.

Survey your target audience

Surveys are a fantastic tool to get in-depth information and feedback from your target audience. Digital platforms also allow you to reach out to them directly, which makes information derived out of these surveys incredibly valuable. Given the difficult circumstances everyone is in, it is possible for your client’s requirements and feelings to change, which could impact how they see your business. This shift in feelings will also impact their purchasing decisions in the near future, and so it is important to be aware of their mood to better suit your communication to their needs.

Keep up with your competition

The post-COVID-19 world brings a lot of unknowns. Like you, the competition is looking at ways to best adapt to these changes and optimise both their operations and communication. For all you know, the entire industry could change forever. It is therefore incredibly important to keep an eye on what is going on to keep up with the competition.

Invest your time and resources in competitor analysis, and use this slowdown to see the improvements you can make to your own strategy based on the insights you derive through your rivals. To be a step ahead of the competition, you must know where your competition stands.

Utilise your social media channels

With no option to go out and having to work from home, people are using their phones and laptops to spend a growing amount of time on social media. These platforms are now their window to the outside world, and it has become essential for brands to engage with them through their online channels. The communication on social media, however, needs to be fine-tuned to not be too intrusive, and you must focus your message to the needs of your target audience, rather than directly promoting your products or features. For example, if you are a food start-up, you can share cooking tips or food-hacks that might be useful to your target audience. In addition, you can talk about eating healthy at a time when going to the gym to workout is not possible.

At the end of it all, no one can predict what the future holds for us. All we can do is try to stay on the pulse of the changing industry, adapt to the challenges it throws at us, and be prepared for the new normal.

Reem Masswadeh is Client Services Director at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations, an independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. |