Last week, I listened to a webinar by West Michigan’s Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (WMPRSA) about how COVID-19 has changed public relations. In this webinar, the chapter featured three different PR leaders in West Michigan and their respective experiences managing communications during the pandemic. Here are my five quick takeaways.
1. Internal Communications is Essential
As a pro who does internal communications – this is very reassuring :). During the pandemic, many companies and organizations shut down, which had communicators scrambling to find the best way to let employees know about company policy updates, HR updates, work from home policy, etc. – which showcased the true value of comms pros. Communicators needed to center their strategy around employees and listen to their needs to develop effective internal communications.
2. Maintaining Credibility During A Crisis
According to one professional, this starts with “thoughtful and deliberate listening”. To maintain credibility, you need to listen to key publics around you and establish yourself as a thought leader in your area of expertise.
3. Adaptability and Flexibility
During the pandemic, many PR pros had to change communication strategies and formats to reach their audiences. One professional on the panel noted “we used video more than ever” and another said, “we had to create a separate email to field community questions”. Remaining adaptable and flexible was an essential part of the day-to-day for people across the world – including PR pros.
Another pro noted, “the pandemic made us better writers and internal communicators”. This was an interesting point because not only was video becoming more necessary – but so was writing. Communicators needed to get the proper message to the proper audience through well-written, accurate, and concise communication more than ever before.
4. Learning to Give Simple Answers to Complex Questions
The public needed simple answers to very complex questions during COVID-19, especially when the virus was in its early stages. Communicators had to get these answers out quicker than they were used to with less information than they were used to, allowing us to become more resilient and tactical with our approach.
5. Comms Are No Longer A ‘Nice To Have’
If there is anything good that came out of the pandemic, it was the realization that effective communications are essential. We cannot get the proper message to the proper audience without public relations or communications – and it showed during the pandemic.