Is crisis culture changing the PR priorities for brands?

There's no doubt in anyone mind that the Coronavirus outbreak has hugely impacted almost every business and every industry. This goes for the Public Relation (PR) industry, too, as the growth and success of the sector is directly proportional to the growth and success of other sectors, and with budgets being cut left, right and centre, where the effect of the catastrophe on many of us has, of course, been consequential. 

Nevertheless, talking about the PR industry, the sector is a rock-solid and robust one, and it will regain its performance. As we are coming out from series of lockdowns and begin the recovery process, it's crucial to look beyond the economic impact of Coronavirus, significantly how the crisis will change the PR sector in the coming years. 

Role and Responsibilities of PR

We all know that communication is the backbone of any institution as it guarantees a seamless and concrete exchange of ideas between the stakeholders. And, the Coronavirus outbreak has gradually changed the conventional functioning of businesses and brands in this pandemic situation.

PR professionals are working 24x7 to maintain stability and strategise over creative ideas and planning strategies to bring the client to the limelight to overcome this difficult situation. In addition, they are coping with the current market scenario to keep their client's active in the market.

Strategies during Covid-19

The best possible way to get going with creative PR strategies is by taking a comprehensive shift of brands and businesses to digital space and ensuring their Online Reputation Management, which is not interrupted by the current scenario. In fact, this has seen a boost in reaching out to more significant users. Of course, the main aim is to deliver fast, concrete, and helpful news because the user is agile these days due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and they are constantly checking the disease statistics. However, there's no doubt that it's a unique opportunity for firms to aid their customers, leading to a long-lasting impression on their audience.

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought the crisis state for businesses like Travel and tourism, educational institutions, restaurants and bars etc. But it didn't impact sectors like FMCG, IT, Banking and Fintech as these sectors are doing the public awareness regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and providing the essential services accordingly.

Why is transparency in PR crucial?

It's pretty funny to know that most people think a person who works in the PR industry is a "Spin Doctor" who drinks champagne all night long and writes clever speeches to make dodgy politicians and corporations look good from time to time in public.

Well, there's no doubt that transparency in PR is taking the industry's centre stage due to social media as it's easier for users to hold brands responsible for their actions. So whether it's a bad review on a blog, or a petition circulating on Facebook or Twitter, the people are becoming influential in shaping any firm reputation. That's why companies are clamouring to give their consumers more insight into their processes and help them stay informed.

Another important reason is that lack of transparency reflects extremely poor on a person or organisation. For example, take former British prime minister David Cameron's involvement in the Panama Papers scandal. When asked if Cameron was holding money offshore, the spokesperson for 10 Downing Street said, "It's a private matter", which, of course, lead to widespread suspicion about the British PM's financial dealings. 

However, Cameron later disclosed details about his finances, but 10 Downing Street's press office could have saved themselves from a lot of hassle had they been transparent and released Cameron's tax records at the earliest, rather than avoiding the question. Because Honesty is the best policy, even if it's not necessarily the easiest.

Role of Social Media

The 21st century is the Godfather for the rise of social media as it has become an important aspect to shape the lives of modern society. It has overruled all the sources of gathering information by bringing in the technological aspects. Nowadays, most of us depend on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to seek more information because it is the fastest and most cost-effective means. Thus, it has changed the dynamics of communicating and sharing information.

Further, it has given a platform to the brands by successfully engaging with its users. For PR, using social media is an integral practise that offers better services. All the popular social media platforms help PR professionals to convey their stories to the audiences effectively.

The Road Ahead

In today's world, a brand can't afford to become "Dhritarashtra" by turning a blind eye to build a significant digital presence but having specialisation in developing relevant digital content to engage target audiences is the need of the hour. To boost a client's credibility and digital presence, the PR team guides clients to contribute to many business-relevant platforms backed by maverick digital content created by the firm; clients are positioned as business leaders.

Pankaj Rai Chaudhary is senior PR executive, Grey Cell Public Relations