By: Rhonda Rees
Public Relations is the art of effective communications. It is more than promoting people, companies, products, services, and ideas. It helps to shape attitudes and opinions, builds images and reputations, increases public awareness and acceptance, and identifies policies and procedures.
This is the most accurate description that I have always felt best captures the essence of our business. So, within that context, and amidst our worldwide changing times – the coronavirus pandemic, new economic reality, and global re-structuring, the need to practice good public relations is most essential, now more than ever before.
One way to best do so is to remain flexible, resilient, and adaptable. In this spirit, I have decided to offer my services to clients that are directly impacted by, and can best relate to the Covid-19 crisis. They are making a big difference, and are having an impact on the many lives that they personally touch. My clients offer a real sense of hope and encouragement to those who are frightened, and are in need of some relief. They do very special things to improve morale during these difficult times.
As an example, my clients improvise and work from their homes. This includes a TV production company for an up-coming Sci-Fi drama series. They shot an entire episode safely and remotely from cast members’ houses during the shutdown.
Another client is an author, athlete and activist who helps people stay in shape while being locked indoors during the quarantine.
Additionally, I handled a composer and a director that made a video (shot on three different continents) which featured musicians throughout the world that play a song offering a sense of hope during the pandemic.
Further, I also handled a Hollywood stunt driver who successfully attempted a Guinness World Record by reversing a tractor trailer backwards the longest distance ever, non-stop. We tied this event into “Distracted Driving Awareness” month, honoring first responders, and practicing safe social distancing.
I also recommend that you try a similar thing – if you can. It’s so important in this day and age to remain sensitive and aware about what is topical, or newsworthy, and what is particularly resonating with the public. Finding the right PR angle or “hook”, and providing a good connection and media source is also vital. So, know your audience, and be aware of who they are, where their interests lie, as well as their particular geographic locations. Publicity, promotion, name recognition, brand building and awareness must take into account our current times and unique business climate as well.
The Challenge and Future of PR
It’s also important to be aware of what others may be personally going through. A loss of a job, loved one, or other on-going stress is something that can never be measured. Messaging and language used on press releases, or in other materials should take this into account. So too should written copy on a website, blog, or other social media platforms. Communication in virtual communities and networks must also remain appropriate. Making use of the latest PR mobile apps, online notifications, and alerts to be kept informed, especially during a crisis is also highly recommended.
I have personally found that there are many newer trends that are influencing the public relations industry directly. A big change is the way that TV and radio shows are filmed, recorded and produced. Zoom is one of the standard methods to get a client on the air, or to hold business meetings. TV production companies are relying heavily on green screens for backgrounds, and in using special effects. Most newspapers, and radio and TV stations have skeleton crews, while their staff work from their homes.
Audience participation is far different than it once was. People are appearing “on the air” through their own technology, (Skype, Zoom) and on social media. Many companies are opting to stream images online, and have their clients hold webinars instead of traveling to make speeches, or attend trade shows. For a PR person, it also becomes a big challenge to reach editors, producers or booking coordinators directly. Many production companies have temporarily closed down, and are no longer filming.
It’s so important to be aware of the personal private space that an editor, producer or booking contact may need while working at home, instead of from their former business setting, and to be courteous and polite by picking an appropriate hour of the day to reach them.
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What can be expected post-pandemic in the public relations industry? Now that the vaccine has arrived, and quarantines are steadily being lifted, only time will tell how some of the changes that we’ve seen and have now been practicing will continue. One thing is for sure, I am certain that some of the newer ways of doing media relations will remain in place, long after this crisis is over. It is far less expensive to produce a TV talk interview show from Zoom than it is to bring in a “live audience”, and provide cameras, lighting, directing hair and make-up for a guest. Also, production companies may no longer be eager to fly in celebrities to their studio, or to provide lodging and other accommodations for them.
I’m sure that after what we’ve all been through – none of us will ever quite be the same again, or look at the world how we did prior to this crisis and pandemic. Hopefully, many people will no longer be tempted to take certain things for granted. Today’s real heroes are the doctors, nurses, teachers, grocery store workers and janitors. I know that in our current business climate, we’ve all learned to remain flexible, and to adapt, as well as to be resilient, resourceful and brave. In our global world with so many unknowns and uncertainties, that’s the only way we can evolve and prosper. Adjusting and practicing these very same principles will surely go a long way toward your remaining a success in the public relations industry – now and always.