media update’s Taylor Goodman looks into three lessons that PR pros should take from this experience. 

Not only did the pandemic completely change the way we bond with our peers but people are far more conscious of their health and how to protect it. Most importantly, for those working in the PR industry, the pandemic has changed how we communicate. 

When unpacking what communications professionals have learned from the pandemic so far, we cannot overlook the four C’s of Corona:

Community: Brands will need to pay greater attention to the needs and concerns of the community around them. 
Cleanliness: Given the greater focus on hygiene and health, brands need to portray a ‘clean’ look and feel in their branding. By doing this, consumers will associate the brand with cleanliness. 
Contactless: Contactless and cleanliness fall into the same bracket of brands needing to fit into the new way of doing things. Contactless business operations are considered safer and more responsible. 
Compassionate: Right now, it is all about brands being socially-conscious. This indicates that you care about more than just business, but rather about uplifting surrounding communities and brands during times of difficulty. 

These four C’s represent the most important attributes brands and those working in PR need to keep in mind during trying times. 

1. You need to be adaptable

One of the biggest skills to have is adaptability. Whether you have to deal with a crisis on the spot or drum up media coverage for a client, you need to be creative and you need to think on your feet. 

In recent times, the role of a PR professional has shifted. An example of this is as in-person events have become a no-go, PR pros have had to adapt to hosting virtual events in their place. 

Eddie Hammerman, managing director at The 10 Group discusses this industry shake-up when speaking to PR moment stating that brands have to “fight harder to get their voices heard.” 

He continued, explaining how this altered a PR professionals role to “identify who they really needed to reach and make sure [they] communicated with those audiences with the right nuance and sensitivity”. 

This illustrates how PRs have created hype around a product or client to secure publicity has become contactless and more compassionate. Now, the focus is more on how can you attract the publicity you need in a way that is safe but engaging for the consumer. 

2. Empathy is crucial

Demonstrating compassion has come to the fore. But why is this the case? Well, simply put, this is because consumers feel vulnerable during these unprecedented times and they need all the support they can get.

Janet Balis for The Harvard Business Review puts it perfectly, stating that consumers have “crossed partisan lines to build bridges within their neighbourhoods and communities and unify against an invisible force”. 

Brands took note of this collective hardship and decided the best way to follow suit was with sincerity, transparency and care. You know what they say — you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. 

This shift in brand-consumer dynamics is one of the most prominent developments to come out of the pandemic. It seemingly opened our eyes as a society to what is really important; not money or competition but community and empathy.  

This need for empathy is not just restricted to the client and PR pro relationship, but also within the actual workplace. 

As more PR teams began working remotely, how they communicated with each other began to change. Now, with everything happening in the virtual space, managers had to take on a more empathetic approach with their employees. 

An example of how this could be done is by regularly checking in with how your staff is managing their workload and fielding any questions or concerns they may have in a compassionate way. 

By doing this, they build better relationships with their team, allowing them to foster a more harmonious remote work environment 

James Selman, managing director of Allison+Partners touched on this, stating “I found being clear, empathic and in regular contact has been crucial for colleagues and client communications alike.”

2. Plan for the worst

Crisis communication is an integral part of public relations — and what bigger, unprecedented global crisis is there than Covid-19? 

Although the pandemic has been a massive learning curve, PR pros have shown that they always need to be prepared for the worst to avoid being caught off guard again. 

Now, many are using this as an opportunity to review their crisis management plans, which include: 
  • an action plan — this is a guide that you will follow in the event of a crisis. 
  • crisis prevention — this includes how you can avoid any difficulties going forward.
  • a comprehensive contact list — this includes anyone’s contact details that you would need in the event of a crisis, like journalists and stakeholders.  
  • pre-approved crisis communications — this is the communications strategy you would use when communicating with the public, your stakeholders or journalist. It includes any talking points you would like to cover and pre-approved statements.
It is important for PR professionals to review and update their crisis management plans as they learn. This will help them to be more prepared for any situation to come their way, and help them to safeguard their reputation. 

PR pros, what lesson did the pandemic teach you? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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What do you do when your client’s brand is in a catastrophe? Well, you can start with our guide, Crisis management 101: What to do when disaster strikes
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy