How COVID-19 Impacts Public Relations, Now and in the Future

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Vaccine rollouts, reopening of businesses and students’ return to school signals our “new normal” is on the horizon. The question, however, is what is this elusive “new normal” we’ve been hearing about since the start of the pandemic? The spread of the coronavirus has altered every business and marketplace across the globe, leaving us to adapt to ever-changing industry landscapes — and the field of public relations is no exception. Over the past year, we have learned the only constant is change, and recognizing and anticipating the continual impact will surely put your business ahead of the rest!

COVID-19’s Current Impact

The pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, from our politics, economics, how we socialize and even our behavior as consumers. Trends in consumer behavior are what we as PR professionals need to stay on top of. These current trends include an increased emphasis and prioritization on health and safety; value-based spending, as consumers want to see what you are doing to drive change; merging the digital and human experience; incorporating new technology to enhance the user experience; and a highly personalized customer experience with data-driven content tailored to each individual. Additionally, day-to-day outreach has become more thoughtful and crisis communication plans are better thought out in order to consider the importance of responding in as close to real time as possible. A lot has changed, and we can expect these changes to long outlive the pandemic.

Post-Pandemic Public Relations

The impact COVID-19 is having on the PR industry today is apparent, but how will the pandemic affect our industry as we emerge on the other side? There are several industry trends gaining traction that are sure to have post-pandemic implications.

The first trend is communicating compassion, which branches off of our current prioritization and emphasis on health and safety. COVID-19 has raised public concern and sensitivity on health and safety, as the pandemic has negatively impacted millions of lives. As PR professionals, we need to stay up to date on cultural and societal impacts, which shape psychological behavior, and in turn, influence our beliefs, attitudes and opinions as consumers.

Another trend is social listening, which emphasizes the importance of effective two-way communication, knowing how to “read the room” and listening to your audience. Monitoring and analyzing how our PR efforts are received has been — and always will be — essential to a successful PR campaign, especially post-pandemic as tensions run high and people respond differently to the same message.

Lastly, rethink your mix of traditional and digital communication. Although the pandemic accelerated the advancements of technology and its integration into our daily lives, digitalization is here to stay. While some may be eager to get back to the office, others now prefer — and will continue — working virtually, resulting in a decline in daily commuters. With this in mind, it’s important to consider brand placement and means of communication. Having an adaptable and diverse communication strategy — incorporating social media, media outreach and various media channels — is critical to your PR campaign’s success!

COVID-19 is currently impacting the PR industry through consumer behavior trends of an increased emphasis on health and safety, value-based spending, merging the digital and human experience, incorporating new technologies and a highly personalized customer experience. These current trends give us insight into how the pandemic will reshape the public relations landscape in the future, such as the importance of communicating compassionately, social listening and diversifying means of communication. Public relations, like countless other industries, has undergone major changes throughout the pandemic, which is why it’s important that we, as PR professionals, approach our dynamic landscape with an open mind and the ability to thoughtfully adapt.

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